Later On

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

Archive for December 22nd, 2016

Exxon’s Pro-Fracking CEO Is Suing to Stop Fracking Near His Mansion

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Fracking is okay for others, just not for those who order the fracking. Christopher Hayes reports:

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 3:50 pm

Why a Struggling Town Voted Against a Basic Income

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The answer seems to be a combination of ignorance (willful ignorance: ignoring information, and that seems perilously close to stupidity) and not really caring about those in need when you yourself are doing okay. Jordan Pearson reports at Motherboard:

Smiths Falls is a small town in Ontario that has been absolutely devastated by the realities of the modern economy over the last decade or so.

First, in 2004, a group home for the mentally disabled that employed 800 people announced its closing. Then in 2007 came what many thought might be the death blow for the economically depressed community: the Hershey’s chocolate plant, which had been a fixture of the local economy for decades, shipped out to Mexico. But that wasn’t all—one year later, Stanley Tools, a manufacturing company, also said it would shutter for good. At the time, the total job losses amounted to nearly 20 percent of the town’s entire population.

You’d think, then, that Smiths Falls would be eager to host a basic income pilot project being planned by the Ontario Liberals. The idea is, essentially, to replace the financial aspects of employment and disability insurance with a monthly, no-strings-attached lump sum that may be even greater than what recipients get currently. It’s intended to top up the incomes of people who earn below a certain threshold.

But on Monday night, the town’s city council shot down the idea of even expressing interest in participating in the basic income pilot.

Read More: The Town Where Everyone Got Free Money

The vote was close—three to two against—and was undertaken with just five out of a total seven councillors present. Council’s say isn’t final, however, and some citizens of Smiths Falls have taken to petitioning city council to reconsider.

But why did Smiths Falls pass up on basic income in the first place? The answer is, sadly, plain old pull-up-your-bootstraps thinking.

“I don’t think basic income is right for any place, not just Smiths Falls,” said Councillor Dawn Quinn, who voted against expressing interest in participating in the basic income pilot, in an interview. “Until you educate people, throwing money at it is not going to fix the problem. People have to learn how to use their money.”

When I asked what she meant by this, Quinn explained that folks sit around in Tim Hortons all day instead of looking for jobs, and they should consider buying a tin of Tim Hortons coffee to make at home instead of buying a cup. And, she added, they could consider shoveling snow to earn some extra money. [I’m now thinking stupidity. – LG]

Quinn said she is aware of the government-funded basic income study that took place in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s. The results of that study showed improvements in areas like poverty reduction and education rates. But, she asked rhetorically, “So what’s happening there now? They have no poverty?”

Of course, it’s been about 40 years since anybody in Manitoba had a basic income, but nonetheless Quinn said she believes that if a pilot were implemented in Smiths Falls and then taken away, “It sure won’t be any better.”

City Councillor Lorraine Allen, who was one of the two councillors to vote for Smiths Falls vying to be part of the basic income pilot, disagreed with Quinn.

Allen helps oversee the town’s food bank, and she said that she sees every day how people need healthy food to be productive (nutritious meals aren’t cheap), and that education isn’t enough to lift people out of poverty—you also need opportunity. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 12:46 pm

Congress scrapped this one word from the law, opening the door to a space arms race

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David Willman reports in the LA Times:

By removing a single word from legislation governing the military, Congress has laid the groundwork for both a major shift in U.S. nuclear defense doctrine and a costly effort to field space-based weaponry.

Experts say the changes, approved by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate, could aggravate tensions with Russia and China and prompt a renewed nuclear arms race. The bill awaits action by President Obama. The White House has not said what he will do.

For decades, America’s defense against nuclear attack has rested on twin pillars: The nation’s homeland missile defense system is designed to thwart a small-scale, or “limited,” attack by the likes of North Korea or Iran. As for the threat of a large-scale strike by China or Russia, the prospect of massive U.S. retaliation is supposed to deter both from ever launching missiles.

Central to this strategy was a one-word qualifier – “limited” — used to define the mission of the homeland defense system. The language was carefully crafted to avoid reigniting an arms race among the superpowers.

Now, with virtually no public debate, bipartisan majorities in Congress have removed the word “limited” from the nation’s missile defense policy. They did so in giving final approval over the last month to the year-end defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.

A related provision of the law calls for the Pentagon to start “research, development, test and evaluation” of space-based systems for missile defense.

A space-based defense program would hinge on annual congressional appropriations and decisions by the incoming Trump administration.

Yet both proponents and opponents say the policy changes have momentous implications.

“These amendments were historic in nature — given the paradigm shift forward that they represent,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced and shepherded the amendments in the House.

Leading defense scientists said the idea that a space-based system could provide security against nuclear attack is a fantasy.

“It defies the laws of physics and is not based on science of any kind,” said L. David Montague, a retired president of missile systems for Lockheed Corp. and co-chair of a National Academy of Sciences panel that studied  missile defense technologies at the request of Congress.

“Even if we darken the sky with hundreds or thousands of satellites and interceptors, there’s no way to ensure against a dedicated attack,” Montague said in an interview. “So it’s an opportunity to waste a prodigious amount of money.”

He called the provisions passed by Congress “insanity, pure and simple.”

The National Academy study, released in 2012, concluded that even a bare-bones space-based missile defense system would cost about $200 billion to put in place, and hundreds of billions to operate in subsequent years.

Franks, asked whether the country could afford it, replied: “What is national security worth? It’s priceless.”

Philip E. Coyle III, a former assistant secretary of Defense who headed the Pentagon office responsible for testing and evaluating weapon systems, described the notion of a space-based nuclear shield as “a sham.”

“To do this would cost just gazillions and gazillions,” Coyle said. “The technology isn’t at hand — nor is the money. It’s unfortunate from my point of view that the Congress doesn’t see that.”

He added: “Both Russia and China will use it as an excuse to do something that they want to do.”

The word “limited” has guided U.S. policy since the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. The qualifier reflects, in part, the reality that intercepting and destroying incoming warheads is supremely difficult, and that it would be impractical to field enough interceptors to counter a large-scale attack. Any such system, by its very nature, would be limited. . .

Continue reading.

We cannot afford this. The GOP plans to slash programs that benefit the public while launching this boondoggle to benefit the military-industrial-Congressional complex.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Business, Congress, Military

Trump team asks State Department for details on programs aimed at helping women

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Tracy Wilkerson reports in the LA Times:

Donald Trump’s transition team has asked the State Department for details on programs aimed at benefiting women around the world, including identifying staff members who worked to reduce gender-based violence and promote women in the workplace.

In an email sent to numerous State Department offices Wednesday, the president-elect’s transition team asked for urgent response to its inquiries about “gender-related staffing, programming and funding.”

Many of the programs were begun or were championed by Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of State during President Obama’s first term and who lost to Trump in November.

The unusual request to the State Department follows a similar e-mail to the Department of Energy. There the transition team asked for names of staff members who had worked on efforts to combat climate change, which Trump has dismissed as a hoax.

Several Obama administration officials called that query chilling. The Trump team withdrew the request after it was widely criticized.

The latest email suggests the incoming Trump administration will attempt to roll back some of the State Department’s most innovative programs and may seek to penalize people who worked on them.

“People are freaked out,” said a senior State Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The email asked the State Department to deliver “issue papers from bureaus and offices (one paper max per bureau/office) outlining existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.”

It said the issue papers should note jobs “whose primary functions are to promote such issues,” as well as money allocated for those activities and programs in fiscal year 2017. . .

Continue reading.

I for one do not welcome our new Republican overlords.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 12:19 pm

Albuquerque concedes forfeiture was illegal, continues with illegal forfeitures

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What do you do when a police department simply ignores the law and does what it pleases. Albuquerque also has a bad history of police officers shooting people dead on slight provocation, including shooting an undercover cop 9 times during a $60 drug bust. That was settled for $6.5 million, paid by the taxpayers with really no penalty on the police department. The officer who did the shooting retired from the department but faced no charges. Another report notes:

This is the second largest payout in the city’s history. The largest was $8 million to pay the family of Iraq War veteran  Kenneth Ellis, after he was killed by an APD officer. The family of Christopher Torres also received $6 million after officers shot their son in his own backyard, and the family of homeless camper James Boyd was awarded $5 million after he was shot and killed by two APD officers in the Foothills.

Radley Balko notes how the Albuquerque Police Department continues with what amounts to robbery and in any event is illegal:

Last year, New Mexico passed one of the most restrictive asset forfeiture laws in the country. It requires state and local governments to actually get a criminal conviction before they can take a suspect’s property. It essentially does away entirely with “civil” asset forfeiture, a practice most people tend to find appalling once you convince them that it actually happens.

Somehow, Albuquerque didn’t get the message. There’s ample evidence that the city simply chose to ignore the law and continued with the seizures. It’s easy to see why — over about five years, the city brought in more than $8 million in revenue by taking property from people who were never convicted of a crime. In some cases, it took cars from people who could prove they had nothing to do with the alleged crime associated with their automobile. Last November, two state lawmakers sued the city to make it stop.

Additionally, several citizens sued. One of them was Arlene Harjo, whose car was seized after her son was pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. With the assistance of the Institute for Justice, she went to court, and was scheduled to have a court date this week. Instead, the city conceded defeat and returned her car. (All the while, Harjo has had to continue to make payments on the car, despite not being able to use it.)

But the city’s lawyers found a way to concede without giving a state court the opportunity to halt its continued flouting of the state law. The city claimed that Harjo’s car was outside city limits when it was taken (and that the police officer who claimed otherwise wasn’t telling the truth.) Therefore, the argument goes, the city didn’t have jurisdiction to take the car. By admitting to violating one law, the city hopes to continue violating another. As the Institute for Justice attorney points out in the linked article, the city had no interest in determining whether the car was within city limits when police initially seized it, nor when the city demanded Harjo pay $4,000 to get it back. It was only when Harjo put millions of dollars of city revenue at risk that Albuquerque officials bothered to check whether the officer had broken a different law. . .

Continue reading. There is some hope, but how did the APD get so off track in the first place?

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 10:51 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

A two-year-old gives a quick solution to the trolley problem

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This is from Open Culture, posted by Colin Marshall. He provides an introduction (and, later in the post, some discussion):

“A runaway train is heading towards five workers on a railway line. There’s no way of warning, but you’re standing near a lever that operates some points. Switch the points, and the train goes down a spur. Trouble is, there’s another worker on that bit of track too, but it’s one fatality instead of five. Should you do that?” Here we have the trolley problem, which since its first articulation in 1967 by Philippa Foot has become the classic example of an ethical dilemma as well as perhaps the best known thought experiment in all of philosophy.

The post at the link has two videos. Here’s one:

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 9:06 am

Posted in Daily life

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Trump’s conflicts of interest explained by White House ethics lawyers Norm Eisen and Richard Painter

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The Brookings Institution provides a useful guide.

Brookings Fellow Norman L. Eisen and Professor Richard W. Painter explain why a Donald Trump presidency poses serious ethical concerns. Eisen and Painter both served as chief White House ethics lawyers, for the Obama Administration and George W. Bush Administrations respectively.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2016 at 9:01 am

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