Later On

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

Archive for March 21st, 2017

Too obvious, you think?: Tax savings from repeal by income level.

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That’s from a Kevin Drum post, which you should read.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 3:03 pm

Too obvious, you think? Rex Tillerson skips NATO summit in favor of trip to Russia

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To kiss the ring? Here’s the report. The trip to Russia has been confirmed, and maybe it will be seen as too obvious and will be canceled. But it does show continuing contempt for NATO, whose participants include important allies. But maybe we don’t need allies anymore. That’s weak. We’re strong. We threaten North Korea with a military strike. That’ll show him.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 2:59 pm

Good news: Former Lobbyist With For-Profit Colleges Quits Education Department

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UPDATE: It’s not so clear-cut after all. Jennifer Rubin explains.

Annie Waldman reports for ProPublica:

A former lobbyist for an association of for-profit colleges resigned last Friday from the Department of Education, where he had worked for about a month.

As ProPublica reported last week, the Trump administration had hired Taylor Hansen to join the department’s “beachhead” team, a group of temporary hires who do not require approval from the U.S. Senate for their appointments.

On the day Hansen resigned, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, citing ProPublica’s reporting and requesting more information on Hansen’s role.

“Mr. Hansen’s recent employment history clearly calls into question his impartiality in dealing with higher education issues at the Department of Education, and raises alarming conflicts of interest concerns,” she wrote.

Jim Bradshaw, an education department spokesman, told ProPublica in an email that the department was “grateful for [Hansen’s] contributions.”

“He served ably and without conflict and decided his service had run its course,” said Bradshaw. Hansen did not immediately respond to ProPublica’s request for comment. Bloomberg first reported Hansen’s departure.

Hansen isn’t the only hire from the for-profit college industry to join the Education Department via the beachhead team. The New York Times reported that Robert S. Eitel, a former compliance officer at for-profit college operator Bridgepoint Education Inc., is working at the department. Eitel, a former deputy general counsel at the Education Department from 2006 to 2009, has been a critic of federal regulations on for-profit colleges.

Warren also criticized Eitel’s hiring in her letter to DeVos. She noted that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last September ordered Bridgepoint, Eitel’s former employer, to refund $23.5 million to students whom it had deceived into taking out loans that cost more than advertised. Bridgepoint is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the attorneys general of New York, North Carolina, California and Massachusetts, Warren wrote.

Until July 2016, Hansen worked as a registered lobbyist for the nation’s largest trade group of for-profit colleges, Career Education Colleges and Universities, or CECU. He lobbied to weaken a regulation known as “gainful employment,” which permits the education department to rescind federal funding from schools whose students fail to earn enough to repay their debts. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 2:51 pm

Rapid meme evolution re: diversity

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I blogged this article by Liza Mundi in the Atlantic, “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” I highly recommend that you read it, and I looked at it from a meme’s-eye view. Roughly, Silicon Valley and high-tech companies in general have the meme of “disruptive change” because when there is such a shift, there is much money to be made. So they have more or less worked out a template that has worked for “disruptive change,” since they want to minimize risks. That is, spot the unexploited advantage, and exploit the hell out of it, bringing in all the tools of managing/unleashing disruptive change: e.g., transparency, regular statistical measures, definition of success, etc. Now they see the practical advantage of a diverse workforce (spelled out in “How to Break Up the Silicon Valley Boys’ Club“) that are measurable. (From that link: “And study after study has shown that greater diversity leads to better outcomes, more innovative solutions, less groupthink, better stock performance and G.D.P. growth.”)

So here they go with disruptive change toward greater diversity and inclusivity: because it’s profitable (always the acid test).

So they are driven by the disruptive change memeplex to (in effect) construct and new memeplex (meme-engineering, in fact) by systematically bringing about a cooperative diverse culture. The companies that succeed at that will (based on the measures mentioned in the article) succeed in the marketplace.

What’s interesting is that it’s happening so rapidly. The broad acceptance of gay marriage seemed to an outside observer to go quite quickly, though I can imagine many couples finding that it took way too long. But it’s pretty much here within, what? a decade?

Now while this new memeplexes are being created (and here I’m thinking about the cooperative and very diverse workplace, there are many who live in regions being left behind in meme evolution. They are not part of the process, so the new meme has little hold on them. These are the people who still won’t accept gay marriage, who don’t want trans people using restrooms appropriate to their gender (and for that there’s a well-tested solution that everyone accepts: gender-neutral restrooms, as on a plane), etc. These things are too new, it happened too quick, and they are not part of the meme.

It’s going to be worse with the effective diverse workplace (EDW): this impacts their employability. If they can’t accept diversity, tomorrow’s workplace is apt to be jarring, at least at the most successful companies. It’s another divide like access to digital technology and media.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 2:19 pm

Trump’s weakness is that he acts as though his delusions were true—plus it’s always worked before. Paul Waldman explains.

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Paul Waldman has an excellent column in the Washington Post:

On Monday, while he was suffering an unusually bad news day in Washington, President Trump went to Kentucky to hold a rally with his loyal supporters. As he always does, he spent some time regaling the crowd with how fantastic his election victory was, making one wonder at what point he’ll stop talking about that.

But the location provided a vivid case study in the dangers Trump will face as time goes on. This early in his presidency, he can still talk about the glittering future he’ll deliver. But at some point, he’ll have to reckon with what his policies have actually done and failed to do.

Trump is applying to governing the same theory that worked quite well for him in his business career. But the rules have already changed for him.

Naturally, Trump promised that the Republican health-care bill will save Americans from the catastrophe of the Affordable Care Act. But it’s an odd thing to say in Kentucky, which may have fared better than any other state under the ACA. The state accepted the law’s expansion of Medicaid and saw an additional 443,000 of its citizens — a full 10 percent of the state’s population — get health coverage at no cost. The state also launched its own ACA exchange, Kynect, which was one of the most successful in the country. According to Gallup, the uninsured rate fell from 20.4 percent in 2013 before the law took effect down to 7.8 percent in 2016, a dramatic drop of more than 12 percentage points.

Which means that if the Republicans succeed in repealing the ACA, no state will suffer more than Kentucky. But hey, who needs Medicaid or subsidized health coverage if you’ve got a great job mining coal, where salaries are high and benefits are comprehensive? Trump repeated that promise, too — that once we get rid of some environmental regulations, all those coal jobs will come back:

“We are going to put our coal miners back to work. They have not been treated well, but they’re going to be treated well now. Clean coal, right? Clean coal. I have already eliminated a devastating anti-coal regulation. And that is just the beginning. You saw that, got a lot thank yous from a lot of great people that work very hard and want to keep working. Lot of people are going to be put back to work, lot of coal miners are going back to work. As we speak, we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back.”

I can’t say how many people in Kentucky actually believe that, but no one who knows anything about the coal industry does. The fact is that coal jobs have been declining for decades, and while environmental regulations have some effect, the two big drivers of the reduction in mining jobs are automation (which means fewer miners are needed to produce the same amount of coal) and competition from other forms of energy. Coal is being steadily replaced by renewables such as solar and wind, but more immediately by natural gas, which because of the fracking boom has become plentiful and cheap. Trump has also vowed to promote fracking, though he hasn’t explained how that jibes with his pledge to bring back all the coal jobs. There are now only about 50,000 coal-mining jobs left in the country, and no serious person thinks that number is going to go anywhere but down, no matter what policy changes come out of Washington.

The administration hasn’t yet said what executive orders Trump is going to sign, but unless he plans to ban fracking, chances are they’ll have something to do with relaxing environmental regulations, and will do little if anything to restore any coal jobs. So why is it that Trump feels comfortable repeatedly making this promise that no serious person, Republican or Democrat, thinks he’ll be able to keep?

I’d argue that the answer lies in Trump’s unique experience as a businessman. In his particular corner of the business world, you really can create wealth just by managing public perception — or at least he could. This was the theory of his entire career, that by fashioning a public persona that was as much of a caricature of wealth and success as Scrooge McDuck, he could turn himself into the picture he was painting. The more people saw Donald Trump as the embodiment of wealth, the more they would want to invest in his projects and buy his products, which would in turn make him wealthier. Making ridiculous promises and outright lying were all part of creating the image; one of my favorite examples is how Trump Tower is 58 stories high, but he numbered the floors up to 68 so that everyone would think it was taller than it is.

And it worked, even if not to quite the extent he claims. Over time, the Trump Organization became less about actual real estate development and more about brand licensing, where he would give someone rights to use the Trump name and its association with garish conspicuous consumption, take little or no risk and just collect the fees. It’s a good business, but it’s not the same as politics. . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. Later in the column:

There’s another key difference between Trump’s business experience and politics. When he conned someone, like the attendees of Trump University, no matter how unhappy they were he could move on to other marks (even if he might have to pay his victims off if the courts caught up with him). It was a big world, and there were always other people who might be taken in by the next scam. But in politics, you have to go back to the people you made promises to the first time around, and ask them to put their faith in you again.

Someone wrote that Donald Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man. (As Newt Gingrich is a stupid guy’s idea of a smart guy.)

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 1:03 pm

Amazon Original series “Sneaky Pete” is sneaky.

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It starts somewhat slowly, things get wound tighter and tighter as it moves along. Great series.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Forced to have sex with 1,000 men, a girl is now suing the motel that she says let it happen

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Samantha Schmidt reports in the Washington Post:

The sex-trade is often pretty easy to spot. A teenage girl accompanies an older man at a motel front desk as he pays for a room in cash. Men come and go from the room for 30 minutes at a time. A scantily dressed girl wanders the hallways in the middle of the night.

Motels and hotels across the country are facilitating sex trafficking, often cloaking the traffickers in anonymity and profiting from their business. The pimps and prostitutes are occasionally nabbed and criminally prosecuted. But rarely does anything happen to the hotel owners and staff that turn a blind eye.

Now a lawsuit brought by a 14-year-old girl in Philadelphia and her lawyer aims to change that. She is suing a motel widely known as the “local epicenter of human trafficking” for knowingly renting rooms to men who forced teenage girls to have sex. The target is the Roosevelt Inn, a roadside motel in northeast Philadelphia notorious for drug deals and violent crime as well as prostitution.

In this budget hotel, a lawsuit alleges, the girl was held for weeks and months at a time, barred from leaving, and was forced to have sex with as many as 1,000 men over the course of two years, Nadeem Bezar, a lawyer at the Kline & Specter law firm told The Washington Post.

All the while, the hotel’s owners and staff continued to lease rooms to her traffickers, profiting off their abuse and doing nothing to stop it, the suit claims.

The allegations were laid out Friday in a suit filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the hotel, its manager, and its parent company, UFVS Management Company, of Purchase, N.Y. It was filed by Kline & Specter on behalf of the girl, who is now 17 and was only identified in the suit as “M.B.”

It is the first known civil suit brought under the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Law of 2014, which allows for compensation for victims from those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking, Bezar said.

According to research by the Villanova Law School’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, it does not appear that a hotel has been held liable for an employee’s participation in or facilitation of a human trafficking offense in part, perhaps, because victims of trafficking may not “self identify” as victims due to the trauma of their experience and even if they do, they may be unaware that they have any opportunity for redress.

The Philadelphia lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

“People are policing the hallways, men and other johns are coming in and out of the hotel, and young girls walking up and down the hallways are scantily dressed,” said Bezar said. “It’s open and obvious, it’s about as obvious as it gets.”

The way the girl got roped into trafficking is a familiar story. After a falling out with her parents, she left home and moved from place to place. Desperate to avoid homelessness, she began spending time with the “wrong group of people,” Bezar said. She was sold into sex slavery and forced to perform sexual acts on men more than twice or three times her age, the lawsuit alleges.

Though the girl’s abusers have already been convicted and sent to prison, her family and lawyers now hope to hold the motel owner responsible for “allowing this to happen,” Bezar said. The girl’s lawyers declined to identify her abusers, saying they feared exposing her to retaliation.

The staff at the motel — which prosecutors have called the “local epicenter of human trafficking” — knew or had “constructive knowledge” that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 11:49 am

Good news: A big thing marijuana opponents worried about is definitely not happening

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

A state-run survey of 37,000 middle and high school students in Washington finds that marijuana legalization there has had no effect on youngsters’ propensity to use the drug.

The Washington Healthy Youth Survey found that the 2016 rate of marijuana was basically unchanged since 2012, when voters in the state approved marijuana for recreational use. In the survey, researchers used the measure of “monthly use,” asking students across all grade levels if they’d used the drug within the past month.

The survey’s numbers show that neither the vote for legalization, nor the opening of pot shops in 2014, have had any measurable effect on the rate of teen marijuana use in Washington state.

Concerns about adolescent pot use have been one of the chief drivers of opposition to legalization campaigns in Washington, Colorado and elsewhere. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently articulated the view when he told reporters that “I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot.”

The concern is that people who start using the drug at a young age are more likely to become addicted to it later. And like any other drug, marijuana use during adolescence — particularly heavy use — can have negative effects on a kid’s mental health or school performance.

But the data coming out of Washington and Colorado strongly suggests that those states’ legalization experiments, which began in earnest in 2014, are not causing any spike in teen use. Teen marijuana use in Colorado fell during 2014 and 2015, the most recent time period included in federal surveys. A separate survey run by the state showed rates of teen use flat from 2013 to 2015, and down since 2011.

The picture in Washington has been a little more mixed. The federal survey showed no significant change in teen marijuana use in the most recent period. But a separate study released last year, did find evidence of a small uptick in marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders in the state.

But the Washington state findings in that study were derived from a national dataset that wasn’t intended to produce representative samples at the state level, said Julia Dilley, the principal investigator on a separate federally-funded study investigating the effects of marijuana legalization in Washington and Oregon.

That doesn’t make those earlier numbers wrong, necessarily, but it does limit how accurate they can be for an individual state like Washington. The state’s own survey, administered to tens of thousands of students and designed to be representative of the entire state, is “more likely to be accurate for reporting state estimates, in my opinion,” Dilley said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 9:22 am

A safe-harbor shave: Barrister & Mann Leviathan, Fine Classic brush, iKon 102

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It’s good to experiment, but there is also great pleasure in setting out what you’ll use for a shave you know will be good.

Leviathan has a wonder fragrance—leather, coffee, sandalwood—and the soap is really excellent. As you can see from the label, it includes tallow, shea butter, castor oil, coconut milk, safflower seed oil, palm oil, and lanolin. The Fine Classic brush easily worked up a good lather, and the iKon 102 did its usual extremely comfortable and extremely efficient job: no nicks, perfectly smooth result.

A splash of Leviathan aftershave, and I’m set to enjoy a rainy day by staying warm, dry, and indoors.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2017 at 9:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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