Later On

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

Archive for February 20th, 2017

A closer look at the killing fields of Sweden

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Kevin Drum has some good charts on the crime rates in Sweden and the trends. This is worth reading, especially since President Trump is sticking with his story that Sweden is having serious problems.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 11:42 pm

President Trump’s Mainstream Media Accountability Survey

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Apparently the President of the United States is going to base decisions on responses to this 25-question survey, which includes questions such as:

Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?

Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?

Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?

Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on President Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?

And so on. It’s not terrible long and can be filled out quickly, and since President Trump depends on this information, do take a moment to complete the survey. I have.

At the end you’ll be asked to send money to Trump, but he has plenty already, so I didn’t.


Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 4:08 pm

A user report on the efficacy of citric acid to soften shaving water

with 2 comments

In the Guide, I suggest several options if you find yourself having to shave with hard water, one of which is to use citric acid. I just received an email from Craig B. reporting on his experience in trying it:

We moved to Pleasanton CA which has very hard water – coming from San Ramon CA whose water is super-soft. So I read with interest your comments on using citric acid. After looking in the local stores without success, I bought some on Amazon. Was I ever surprised!! I expected easier lathering and better lather quality – which is just what I got. What I was not expecting, and the bonus mentioned above, was that:

  • The razor itself is much cleaner with only a very small amount of buildup.
  • The razor rinses more completely, presumably because the lather is of better quality (not pasty and sticking to razor and blade).
  • The sink itself in squeaky clean after shaving. The walls of the sink are slick and shiny, eliminating criticism from SWMBO.

Thanks so much for a great tip.

In asking his permission to quote his email, I mentioned that citric acid also is used as a salt substitute. It’s a white crystalline powder that works well in a salt shaker for the table. It adds lemony zest but no salt.

Your input on using citric acid as a salt substitute is good for several reasons. One is that salt is to be avoided for pretty much everyone in so far as possible. Secondly, this is particularly timely because the docs are telling us (in our 70s) to control our blood pressure by eliminating salt and avoiding soups and (diet) sodas and such because they contain too much sodium.. So using citric acid as a substitute sounds like a wonderful idea for us. Thank you so much for the extra tip.

Sounds like I need two salt shakers – one for the table and one for the sink. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

North Korea’s Recent Ballistic Missile Launch: Another Foreign Policy Test for Donald Trump

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Foreign policy requires, I think, more than Donald Trump can deliver. Just now I blogged about the Muslim Brotherhood issue. Here Rick Houghton has a good Lawfare post on the North Korean missile incident, which Trump discussed with the Japanese prime minister over dinner in the public dining room aat Mar-a-Lago:

President Donald Trump assessed the state of U.S. foreign affairs during his wide-ranging Thursday press conference: “I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.”  That evaluation appeared to rely, in part, on a quagmire that has dogged successive administrations—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea.  Just a few days earlier, on February 12, the Hermit Kingdom had defiantly launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.

Although the President used the press conference as a vehicle to admonish the media and to deny accusations of wrongdoing related to his administration’s alleged contacts with the Russian Federation, Trump also sought to reassure the American public about North Korea’s bellicosity: “[W]e’ll take care of it, folks.”

The missile test proves that the North Korean threat is growing—the DPRK may soon develop the capability to reach the continental United States with nuclear weapons.  Indeed, Pyongyang remains undeterred despite numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), which prohibit the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  This post provides background on the recent launch, pertinent UNSCRs, and North Korea’s current nuclear and missile capabilities.

Launch Details

U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) “detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 4:55 pm CST, Feb[ruary] 11, 2017,” 7:55 am KST, February 12.  STRATCOM assessed the weapon as “a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile,” which was fired from “near the northwestern city of Kusong,” and “was tracked over North Korea and into the Sea of Japan.”  The weapon traveled approximately 500 kilometers and reached an altitude of 550 kilometers.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, which, according to Yonhap News Agency, jointly evaluated the launch with the U.S. military, stated: “The missile appears to be a modified intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile possibly equipped with a solid fuel engine.”  The Musudan is believed to have a range of 2,500 to 4,500 kilometers and a payload capacity of 1,000 to 1,250 kilograms.  Assuming the accuracy of the range estimate, the Musudan is capable of impacting Guam.  The missile’s performance, however, is spotty—of eight North Korean test flights in 2016, only one was successful.

But some experts, notably John Schilling of 38 North, reject the assessment provided by the South Korean and U.S. militaries.  Schilling speculates that the missile is a Pukguksong-2, partly because “the trajectory of this test was not a good match for the Musudan.”  The Pukguksong-2 is believed to be a land-based variant of the submarine-launched Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, missile, which Pyongyang successfully launched in August 2016.

Significantly, the Pukguksong-2 has “a much higher degree of mobility, survivability and responsiveness” than other North Korean ballistic missiles, notably the Nodong, says Schilling.  First, unlike liquid-fueled weapons, the Pukguksong-2 is powered by solid fuel—thus, the missile does not require fuel trucks and, importantly, the weapon can be fired within five minutes’ notice.  By comparison, the logistics-heavy Nodong requires up to an hour of preparation prior to launch.   Second, it appears that the DPRK military fired the Pukguksong-2 from a tracked, rather than a wheeled, transporter-erector-launcher vehicle—meaning the missile is more mobile and robust than similar North Korean systems.  These improvements, according to Schilling, “make it much harder to find and preemptively destroy the Pukguksong-2.”

U.S. Government and Other Responses

In contrast with the President’s campaign rhetoric regarding North Korea, his response to the launch has been muted.  Administration officials notified the President of the missile test while he dined at his Mar-a-Lago compound with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  Presumably referring to the missile test, Trump stated: “The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”  In a subsequent joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the President observed, “North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”  But Trump neither acknowledged the launch nor did he advance a course of action to dissuade the DPRK from conducting additional tests.  And during Thursday’s lengthy press conference, the President appeared to mention North Korea only in passing, merely alluding to the launch.

Other U.S. government officials and entities, however, have adopted a more hostile tone towards Pyongyang.  The Pentagon, for example, assessed the launch as a “clear, grave threat” to the United States.  Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, remarked: “It is time to hold North Korea accountable—not with our words, but with our actions.”  And on Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a joint release with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, which declared: “The Ministers condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s February 12, 2017 ballistic missile test, noting North Korea’s flagrant disregard for multiple [UNSCRs] that expressly prohibit its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.”  The statement also “reiterated that the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to its allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, including the commitment to provide extended deterrence, backed by the full range of its nuclear and conventional defense capabilities.”

Moreover, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 2:19 pm

Tech still does not take discrimination seriously, allowing it to flourish

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Klint Finley writes in Wired:

The tech industry isn’t big on dress codes, employee handbooks, or rules. The Silicon Valley management philosophy is simple: Hire talented coders, give them tools to do their jobs, and get out of their way. The best coders should be rewarded, and those who just can’t hack it should be let go.

The problem is that, all too often, workplace problems boil down to more than just code. Yesterday widely respected programmer Susan J. Fowler revealed in a blog post that she quit her job at the transportation company Uber last year after facing sexual harassment, discrimination, and, perhaps most worryingly, a corporate culture that let all that harassment and discrimination slide.

One of the most striking things about the allegations is how unsurprising they are. Uber has always had a cavalier attitude about rules and regulations, so it’s easy to imagine that attitude extending to sexual harassment and employment laws in general. But the issue goes far beyond Uber. Stories like Fowler’s are common in the tech industry, which has never quite gotten a handle on how to hold employees accountable for anything other than “performance.”

Fowler, a frequent speaker at conferences and author of the book Production-Ready Microservices, claims that shortly after she joined Uber, her manager propositioned her. She reported him to Human Resources, she writes, but was told that because it was the manager’s first offense, no action would be taken. She had the choice between staying on his team, where she was allegedly told that she might receive a poor performance review in retaliation, or transfer to another team. She chose to transfer.

Fowler writes that she later found out it was not this manager’s first offense at all, and that although he eventually left the company, he wasn’t disciplined—even after more women had reported him for sexual harassment.

That was just the beginning. Fowler describes a dysfunctional, Game of Thrones-esque company culture, with management admitting that she was given a bad performance review for non-work related reasons, and, ultimately, a manager threatening to fire her if she continued reporting discrimination to the HR department. A common refrain, each time she complained to HR about a harasser, was that the person in question was a “high performer.”

Uber didn’t respond to our request for comment, but The New York Times reports that CEO Travis Kalanick has promised an investigation. Media mogul and Uber board member Arianna Huffington promised on Twitter that she will work with Uber’s chief of human resources, Liane Hornsey, on the investigation.

Uber has a troubled history on gender relations. In 2014, Kalanick told GQ that he called the company “Boob-er” because it has made him more attractive to women. That same year, the company ran an ad in France promising to pair customers with “hot chick” drivers. When journalist Sarah Lacy suggested that this sort of sexism was a problem, Uber senior vice president Emil Michael suggested digging up dirt on her to ruin her reputation, according to BuzzFeed. Kalanick tweeted that Michael’s comments didn’t represent Uber’s views, but Michael kept his job.

The company isn’t the only tech darling to face these kind of problems, though. Fowler’s story retraces what has become a familiar sequence of events: A female employee complains about sexual harassment and/or discrimination to HR. The company takes no action. The employee takes to the internet to complain. Media attention follows. The company promises to investigate. Sometimes someone resigns in scandal. But the industry itself stays the same.

In 2014, a former employee of the code hosting and collaboration site GitHub claimed one of the company’s programmers sexually harassed her, and that one of the founder’s wives had also repeatedly harassed her—despite multiple reports to the company’s HR department. After a flurry of media coverage, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 2:09 pm

Talk of Terror Listing for Muslim Brotherhood Alarms Some Arab Allies

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I blogged earlier on how the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood is quite gnarly and pretty much the opposite of the clear-cut, easy-choice decisions Trump seems to prefer based on the remedies he offers. The easy choice that the Trump administration seems to be favoring is to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Declan Walsh reports in the NY Times on how the impact is already being felt:

In Morocco, it would tip a delicate political balance. In Jordan, it could prevent American diplomats from meeting with opposition leaders. In Tunisia, it could make criminals of a political party seen as a model of democracy after the Arab Spring.

Of all the initiatives of the Trump administration that have set the Arab world on edge, none has as much potential to disrupt the internal politics of American partners in the region as the proposal to criminalize the Muslim Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist movement with millions of followers.

“The impact would be great,” said Issandr El Amrani, an analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Morocco, where a Brotherhood-linked party won the last election in October. “It could destabilize countries where anti-Islamist forces would be encouraged to double down. It would increase polarization.”

For President Trump, the designation debate is an election promise made good. He has made no bones about taking an approach to the Middle East that is narrowly focused on counterterrorism, and that plays to domestic supporters who view all Islamist movements — or even all Muslims — as potentially hostile.

In much of the Middle East, though, the rapid pace and embattled rollouts of Mr. Trump’s early orders have induced anxiety. Now many are following the potential indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood as a harbinger of things to come.

“The Obama administration moved us away from the ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative,” said Emad Shahin, a dissident Egyptian academic who lectures at Georgetown University. “Trump is taking us deeper into it.”

Not all are unhappy about the move to list the Brotherhood.

One leader the designation would surely delight is President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, the former general who has led a harsh crackdown on the Brotherhood since the military ousted a Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, as president in 2013. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also would support it.

But in countries where Brotherhood-linked parties are prominent in Parliament or are in power, experts say a sweeping indictment could have serious implications for domestic politics, American diplomacy and the broader fight against Islamist extremism.

In Jordan, a crucial ally in the fight against jihadist groups, Islamists constitute a small but significant bloc in the Parliament. Tunisia’s Ennahda party, which has won wide praise for its democratic engagement and moderate stance since 2011, might be shunned. The prime minister of Morocco, technically, could be considered a criminal.

“You would throw many babies out with the bath water,” said Gerald M. Feierstein, a former United States ambassador to Yemen, now at the Middle East Institute in Washington. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 1:56 pm

Paul Krugman on Economic Arrogance

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Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

According to press reports, the Trump administration is basing its budget projections on the assumption that the U.S. economy will grow very rapidly over the next decade — in fact, almost twice as fast as independent institutions like the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve expect. There is, as far as we can tell, no serious analysis behind this optimism; instead, the number was plugged in to make the fiscal outlook appear better.

I guess this was only to be expected from a man who keeps insisting that crime, which is actually near record lows, is at a record high, that millions of illegal ballots were responsible for his popular vote loss, and so on: In Trumpworld, numbers are what you want them to be, and anything else is fake news. But the truth is that unwarranted arrogance about economics isn’t Trump-specific. On the contrary, it’s the modern Republican norm. And the question is why.

Before I get there, a word about why extreme growth optimism is unwarranted.

The Trump team is apparently projecting growth at between 3 and 3.5 percent for a decade. This wouldn’t be unprecedented: the U.S. economy grew at a 3.4 percent rate during the Reagan years, 3.7 percent under Bill Clinton. But a repeat performance is unlikely.

For one thing, in the Reagan years baby boomers were still entering the work force. Now they’re on their way out, and the rise in the working-age population has slowed to a crawl. This demographic shift alone should, other things being equal, subtract around a percentage point from U.S. growth.

Furthermore, both Reagan and Clinton inherited depressed economies, with unemployment well over 7 percent. This meant that there was a lot of economic slack, allowing rapid growth as the unemployed went back to work. Today, by contrast, unemployment is under 5 percent, and other indicators suggest an economy close to full employment. This leaves much less scope for rapid growth.

The only way we could have a growth miracle now would be a huge takeoff in productivity — output per worker-hour. This could, of course, happen: maybe driverless flying cars will arrive en masse. But it’s hardly something one should assume for a baseline projection.

And it’s certainly not something one should count on as a result of conservative economic policies. Which brings me to the strange arrogance of the economic right. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

It would be nice to pretend that we’re still having a serious, honest discussion here, but we aren’t. At this point we have to get real and talk about whose interests are being served.

Never mind whether slashing taxes on billionaires while giving scammers and polluters the freedom to scam and pollute is good for the economy as a whole; it’s clearly good for billionaires, scammers, and polluters. Campaign finance being what it is, this creates a clear incentive for politicians to keep espousing a failed doctrine, for think tanks to keep inventing new excuses for that doctrine, and more.

“Who benefits?” is often a revealing question.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2017 at 1:30 pm

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