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Archive for November 11th, 2016

Podesta May Have Cost Democrats the Election With Push for Obama Legacy

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

Yesterday, WikiLeaks released a new email that synthesizes why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats suffered such devastating losses in Tuesday’s election, losing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that should have been easy wins for the Democrats.

The email clarifies how Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman, John Podesta, had created an impossible conflict in how he was running Clinton’s campaign: he wanted it to serve the dual role of embellishing President Obama’s legacy, thus muzzling Clinton on criticizing the President’s policies. It should have been readily clear that this was a losing gamble as tens of thousands turned out at Senator Bernie Sanders’ primary rallies as he called for a “political revolution” against the establishment in Washington while Clinton attracted modest crowds with her stay the course mantra.

The email shows that on October 7, 2015, Hillary Clinton’s advisers were working on an OpEd that would map out her position on needed reforms of Wall Street. The OpEd would come within a week of the first presidential primary debate where both Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley were expected to endorse the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. The repeal of that 1933 legislation, sacked by President Bill Clinton and his pro-Wall Street administration in 1999, caused the Wall Street collapse and unprecedented bailout in 2008 by allowing banks holding trillions of dollars in taxpayer-backstopped insured deposits to gamble those funds away in exotic securities and derivatives. (See related articles below.)

In the email thread, Mandy Grunwald of Grunwald Communications said she liked the opinion piece “a lot” and made the following suggestions:

“1. I am concerned about the Glass Steagall paragraph. I would recommend  cutting it. Three things will antagonize: 1) saying she respects those who support it, is kind of patronizing; 2) calling it ‘old’ is an insult to the work done on the new version and 3) saying it will have unintended economic consequences will annoy.  Why not just skip this?

“2. On giving regulators the power to break up banks that are too big, can we say that there are several that are bigger than before the crisis and should be looked at right now?

“3. Can we lose the phrase ‘not just in the big banks’? This seems to denigrate the importance of the big banks when we don’t have to. Our point is just additive — these other financial institutions need to be held accountable too.”

Unlike Grunwald, who was focusing on substantive issues in the OpEd, John Podesta zeroed in on the lack of “love” for Obama in the piece, writing the following:

“I am worried that there is not enough love here for Obama. Implicitly critical. We are skating on thin ice after TPP, syria, Cadillac tax, immigration. Need to beef up credit.”

The next day, an OpEd under the byline of Hillary Clinton appeared at Bloomberg News. Obama’s name was mentioned four separate times in a highly favorable light. Clinton said Obama had signed into law “important new rules” after the 2008 financial crash; she was going to “build on the progress we’ve made under President Obama”; “thanks to President Obama’s leadership” the economy is now on “sounder footing”; and the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation that Obama signed into law had “made important reforms, but there’s more to do.”

Since Bloomberg News is heavily read by people on Wall Street, this was a signal to them that Hillary Clinton would leave the bulk of her husband’s cash cow deregulation in place by following in the footsteps of Obama. What Obama’s administration had done in 2010 was to create the illusion of regulating Wall Street by proposing hundreds of vaguely worded rules in the Dodd-Frank legislation, then putting crony Wall Street regulators in charge at the SEC and U.S. Treasury to be sure the rules were never actually implemented in any meaningful way. (Under Dodd-Frank, the U.S. Treasury Secretary now sits atop a new financial stability body known as the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The crony Federal Reserve, which failed to see the crisis coming, was given enhanced supervisory powers over the largest Wall Street bank holding companies.) Obama even ignored one of his own rules in Dodd-Frank. It called for Obama to appoint a Vice Chairman for Supervision at the Federal Reserve to police Wall Street. It’s six years since the passage of Dodd-Frank; Obama has been called out time and again for failure to make this appointment; and yet he continues to thumb his nose at putting a real cop on the beat on Wall Street.

There is another telling fact in the email. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 3:35 pm

Human population through time

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I wonder how this will play out when climate change really starts to hit. (Trump seems on track to put a denialist in charge of the EPA, so no hope there.)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Science

Small innovations with bigger impact than you might think: Glass mirror example

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Jason Kottke blogs:

In a piece excerpted from his new book, Millennium: From Religion to Revolution: How Civilization Has Changed Over a Thousand Years, Ian Mortimer argues that the introduction of glass mirrors circa 1300 in Venice spurred the shift to an individualistic society because people were able to see themselves clearly for the first time.

Polished metal and obsidian mirrors have existed from ancient times, and because of this, historians have usually passed over the introduction of the glass mirror as if it was just another variation on an old theme. But the development of glass mirrors marks a crucial shift, for they allowed people to see themselves properly for the first time, with all their unique expressions and characteristics. Polished metal mirrors of copper or bronze were very inefficient by comparison, reflecting only about 20 percent of the light; and even silver mirrors had to be exceptionally smooth to give any meaningful reflection. These were also prohibitively expensive: most medieval people would only have glimpsed their faces darkly, reflected in a pool of water.

What an odd thing, to not actually know what your face looks like, and yet for most of human history, that was the case. Also interesting that the rise of glass mirrors led to an increase of commissioned painted portraits:

People’s ability to appreciate their unique appearance led to a huge rise in the number of portraits commissioned, especially in the Low Countries and Italy. While almost all the oil paintings that survive from the fourteenth century are of a religious nature, the few exceptions are portraits. This trend toward portraiture grew in the fifteenth century, and came to dominate nonreligious art. As important men increasingly commissioned artists to create their likenesses, the more those likenesses were viewed, encouraging other people to have their portraits painted.

Steven Johnson discussed glass mirrors in the opening chapter of his book How We Got To Now.

At the exact moment that the glass lens was allowing us to extend our vision to the stars or microscopic cells, glass mirrors were allowing us to see ourselves for the first time. It set in motion a reorientation of society that was more subtle, but no less transformative, than the reorientation of our place in the universe that the telescope engendered. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Technology

Trump administration and the criminal justice system

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Some of Radley Balko’s afternoon links (with more at the link):

 

  • Another look at criminal justice policy under Trump here.
  • It has been four years since Massachusetts officials discovered that a crime lab worker had been faking test results, but “more than 20,000 defendants still don’t know if their drug convictions will stand.”

 

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 1:43 pm

A prescient quote from Richard Rorty (from his 1997 book)

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That’s from Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America. From the Wikipedia article on Rorty:

In Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (1997), Rorty differentiates between what he sees as the two sides of the Left, a cultural Left and a progressive Left. He criticizes the cultural Left, which is exemplified by post-structuralists such as Foucault and postmodernists such as Lyotard, for offering critiques of society, but no alternatives (or alternatives that are so vague and general as to be abdications). Although these intellectuals make insightful claims about the ills of society, Rorty suggests that they provide no alternatives and even occasionally deny the possibility of progress. On the other hand, the progressive Left, exemplified for Rorty by the pragmatist Dewey, Whitman and James Baldwin, makes hope for a better future its priority. Without hope, Rorty argues, change is spiritually inconceivable and the cultural Left has begun to breed cynicism. Rorty sees the progressive Left as acting in the philosophical spirit of pragmatism.

It really is too bad that the media in effect ignored Bernie Sanders’s campaign and proposals, which were grossly underreported, because the media was (a) fascinated by Trump and (b) desperate for clicks and revenue and (c) focused on the horse-race aspect of the campaign and ignored positions and policies. The media failed in its job, pure and simple.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Books, Election, Government

Inside Magic Leap, The Secretive $4.5 Billion Startup Changing Computing Forever

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It will be interesting to see how Magic Leap pans out. David Ewalt writes in Forbes:

The hottest ticket in tech is an invitation to a banal South Florida business park, indistinguishable on the outside from countless other office buildings that dot America’s suburban landscape. Inside, it’s a whole different story. A different reality, in fact. Humanoid robots walk down the halls, and green reptilian monsters hang out in the lounge. Cartoon fairies turn the lights on and off. War machines, 75 feet tall, patrol the parking lot.

Even the office equipment does the impossible. The high-definition television hanging on the wall seems perfectly normal. Until it vanishes. A moment later it reappears in the middle of the room. Incredibly, it is now levitating in midair. Get as close as you’d like, check it out from different angles. It’s 80 inches diagonal, tuned to ESPN–and there is nothing holding it up.

The TV looks real, but it is not. All these wonders are illusions, conjured into being through the lenses of a “mixed reality” headset–the arcane invention of the startup called Magic Leap.

Like any good magician, founder and CEO Rony Abovitz, 45, keeps his cards close to his chest. Magic Leap has operated in extreme secrecy since it was founded in 2011. Only a few people got to see its technology, even fewer knew how it worked, and all of them were buried under so many nondisclosure agreements that they could barely admit the company existed.

Yet massive amounts of money were flowing down to Dania Beach, Florida, a town of 30,000 just south of Fort Lauderdale. To date, Magic Leap has raised nearly $1.4 billion in venture capital, including $794 million this past February, reportedly the largest C round in history. Seemingly every blue-chip tech investor has a chunk, including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Google, JPMorgan, Fidelity and Alibaba, plus there’s backing from less conventional sources such as Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment, the maker of films like Godzilla and Jurassic World. Magic Leap was valued at $4.5 billion in its latest round of financing. If Abovitz has held on to just 22% of the company–which he denies– he’s a billionaire.

That cascade of money sparked strange rumors within tech circles: Magic Leap was doing something with holograms, or with lasers, or had invented some reality-warping machine the size of a building that would never, could never, be commercialized. The lack of hard information further fueled the whispers. Magic Leap, after all, has never released a product. It has never given a public demonstration of a product, never announced a product, never explained the proprietary “lightfield” technology that powers its product.

But now the company is coming out of the shadows. In a rare interview Abovitz says Magic Leap has spent a billion dollars perfecting a prototype and has begun constructing manufacturing lines in Florida, ahead of a release of a consumer version of its technology. When it arrives–best guess is within the next 18 months–it could usher in a new era of computing, a next-generation interface we’ll use for decades to come. “We are building a new kind of contextual computer,” Abovitz says. “We’re doing something really, really different.”

Magic Leap’s innovation isn’t just a high-tech display–it’s a disruption machine. This technology could affect every business that uses screens or computers and many that don’t. It could kill the $120 billion market for flat-panel displays and shake the $1 trillion global consumer-electronics business to its core. The applications are profound. Throw out your PC, your laptop and your mobile phone, because the computing power you need will be in your glasses, and they can make a display appear anywhere, at any size you like.

For that matter, they can make anything appear, like directions to your next meeting, drawn in bright yellow arrows along the roads of your town. You’ll be able to see what that new couch you’re thinking of buying looks like in your living room, from every conceivable angle, under every lighting condition, without leaving your home. Even the least mechanically inclined will be able to repair their automobiles, with an interactive program highlighting exactly which part needs to be replaced and alerting you if you’re doing it wrong. And Magic Leap is positioned to profit from every interaction: not just from the hardware and software it will sell but also, one imagines, from the torrent of data it could collect, analyze–and resell.

“It’s hard to think of an area that doesn’t completely change,” Abovitz says.

YOU HAVE LIKELY TRIED virtual reality–Sony, Google, Samsung and Facebook have all debuted VR products in the past 12 months. VR is an immersive computer-generated simulation, now used mostly for videogames, whereby VR headsets mask and replace the real world.

You may have also tried augmented reality, in which digital content is overlaid on a physical environment. One of the biggest digital fads of 2016 made AR mainstream: In July mobile app developer Niantic released Pokémon Go, a game that uses smartphone cameras to make animated monsters appear to exist in the real world–or at least on your phone’s screen.

Neither a VR game nor Pokémon Go can do what Magic Leap’s “mixed reality” does. VR takes you to another place. AR can make a Pikachu appear in your living room. Mixed reality keeps you where you are–and makes that Pikachu come to life.

How does it do it? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 10:47 am

How Japan Prepares Its Children for Independence

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Kate Lewis writes in Savvy Tokyo:

Last week, my two-year-old son took a ‘secret’ field trip. His yochien(preschool) packed up all of their child class students, took them on a bus, and would not tell us where.

When we learned about the plan, the other American parents and I looked at each other in excited disbelief. “This would never happen in America,” we whispered, conscious of the mountains of forms and waivers that would have been deemed necessary back home for such a trip. Yet we weren’t horrified or worried. We were delighted.

The reasoning behind the ‘secret’ field trip was simple: this was the children’s first adventure without their parents. The yochien did not want us moms to show up, one of the other mothers laughingly translated for us. They joked that one or two of us might sneak to the park to watch this first solo outing, and it was important that the children take this small step toward independence alone.

Next year, my son—at three—will ride the bus to yochien by himself.  By five and six, Japanese children often take public transit or walk to school without their parents.

My mother, back in America, was horrified when she heard this. “They walk by themselves? The whole way? He’s far too little for that,” she said, when I mentioned it off-hand.

Yet to an outsider like me,  Japan does an excellent job of preparing its children for independence, in a way that America—with its love of helicopter parenting and loathing of ‘free-range’ parenting—often does not.

It begins slowly. Our yochien eased us into the transition of attending school, even though the toddlers only attended one or two days per week. It was still an adjustment, and the school treated it as such. The moms attended the first several days of class, and the first field trips. When the children finally attended their first solo day of class, nearly a month had gone by.

And it is in this way, bit by bit, that Japanese children build up independence. With only 1.7% of Japanese schoolchildren riding a bus (according to research from the American-based Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTS)), and some schools banning cars from doing drop-offs, walking to school is often a necessity in Japan. Yet children aren’t simply shown the door and expected to find the way to school by themselves. Independence is a skill taught through weeks of practice: learning the route holding the hand of a parent, meeting the shop owners along the way, navigating the landmarks with a parent following a block behind. It’s making sure the children not only know how to do it, but also know how to do it safely.

Most importantly, the wider community in Japan also helps foster children’s independence. Neighbors who see children walking or playing alone don’t call the police, nor do the police arrest the parents. Instead, they help.

When the SRTS sent its deputy director to Tokyo in 2011 to learn about Japanese methods, among their findings was that community participation was crucial in helping the system work as well as it does—and in helping parents feel confident in letting their children go.

The route to school for a Japanese child often includes volunteer crossing guards, signs designating safe shops and homes in case of emergencies, and even neighborhood chimes reminding playing children to head home at dark. In this way, everyone pitches in to ensure children can be both independent and safe, providing a framework to allow them freedom. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 10:44 am

Photos from Inside NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Combat Center

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NORAD’s combat center looks as though it cost a lot, but I suppose better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. (This is the answer from those who always go armed usually seem to give to the question “Why?” and I’ve found that it works for just about anything. I can’t tell you how many soaps, razors, and other such things I’ve bought using that line of reasoning. It also worked when I was carrying a very cute tape measure (video below), since people invariably asked why I had it. Great answer, in some respects.)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 10:12 am

Posted in Military

Senator Harry Reid’s statement after the election

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From his Senate web page:

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement about the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States: 

“I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America.

“White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.

“I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.

“I have a large family. I have one daughter and twelve granddaughters. The texts, emails and phone calls I have received from them have been filled with fear – fear for themselves, fear for their Hispanic and African American friends, for their Muslim and Jewish friends, for their LBGT friends, for their Asian friends. I’ve felt their tears and I’ve felt their fear.

“We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

“If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 9:56 am

Meißner Tremonia Woody Almond and the Baby Smooth

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SOTD 2016-11-11

I really like this Chiseled Face brush. The knot is the usual Plissoft, but the handle is special, IMO. And it certainly had no trouble in making an excellent lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond shaving paste, which has an intense but pleasant fragrance, as described on the label.

The Baby Smooth is one razor that I think really should be in current production. It is totally comfortable and totally efficient, and I don’t think it’s ever given me a nick. Part of the secret seems to be the extreme curvature of the blade, but the general construction and workmanship is excellent as well: machined aluminum alloy, light but strong.

A splash of Chiseled Face’s Trade Winds aftershave, and we begin Veteran’s Day—Remembrance Day in the British Empire.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2016 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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