Later On

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

Archive for April 7th, 2017

Great martial-arts movie on Netflix: Rise of the Legend

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And it really is extremely good in plot, characters, fights, effects. The sets are so elaborate they must be CGI, but they certainly look real to me. Worth watching, IMO: Rise of the Legend. There’s a fair amount of flashback, but it’s pretty easy to follow.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Steve Martin teaches an on-line course on comedy

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Learned it from this post on Open Culture. Here’s the teaser:

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Education, Humor, Video

Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, white privilege and the normalization of sexual assault

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Shaun King writes in the NY Daily News:

I say this all of the time, but it’s hard to know a moment in history when you’re in it. Sometimes it takes time — decades, generations even — to be able to reflect back on a moment or an era to realize just how truly significant it was.

Right now, we live in the age of the gross normalization of sexual assault and harassment — where you can, particularly if you are a rich white man, be accused of raping, groping, threatening or harassing women and still rise to the highest levels of government or media. Because we are in this moment, we have no sincere idea how this will impact society, but it is, without a doubt, detrimental to the safety and security of women in America and around the world.

Donald Trump, our duly elected President of the United States, who has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by more than a dozen women, just went to bat for Bill O’Reilly, the most popular conservative talking head in America, after it was revealed that O’Reilly and Fox News have paid out millions and millions of dollars to settle five sexual harassment lawsuits brought by women in his workplace.

O’Reilly has denied all of the allegations, saying he’s “vulnerable to lawsuits” just like “other prominent and controversial people.”

So, here we are. Two of the most well-known, influential men in the world have been accused of harassment by numerous women. It’s sick.

And at the root of it all is wealth, yes. Influence, yes. But also at the root of this is what it means to be wealthy, influential, and white in America.

To have such a long, ugly list of accusations and settlements, and still rise to the heights of power in spite of it all, is a uniquely white experience.

Imagine Barack Obama had been recorded, as Donald Trump was, saying that he forces himself on women he just met, kisses them without permission, and grabs them by their genitals because he’s famous and can get away with it. Imagine Obama was recorded saying that before he was elected President. You know, and I know, that would mean he wouldn’t be elected President. And here’s the thing — . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Daily life

What’s the cost of 19 fighter jets?

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Jordan Libowitz posts at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW):

Last week, the Trump administration dropped an Obama administration condition that Bahrain must improve its human rights record before being allowed to buy American arms. Bahrain, ranked in the bottom 20 countries in the world in Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom in the World report, continues to have a government full of what the president would call “bad hombres.”

So, why would President Trump bless the sale of 19 F-16 fighter jets to the freedom-challenged nation without any sign of improvement? Could it be…Bahrain’s moving of an event from the Ritz Carlton to the Trump International Hotel in DC just days after his election as president?

Now, we don’t know if the Bahraini event was a factor in the president’s judgment—there’s no way to know if there was a quid pro quo relationship. But the connection is clearly there, so it’s a question we have to ask. This is the situation President Trump created by refusing to sell his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust, and the reason we felt it necessary to sue him: the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution was written so Americans would never have to worry whether their government officials were making decisions with their best interests in mind or because a foreign government paid them.

For decades, presidents have placed their assets in blind trusts or widely held mutual funds and Treasury bills to let America know they truly were acting in the interest of “America first.” Former President Jimmy Carter even gave an independent trustee the power to sell his warehouse and rent out his farm without the president’s knowledge or approval. But it’s not like President Carter’s peanut farm ever had much of an effect outside the then-230 or so residents of Plains, GA. There’s so much more at stake here.

President Trump has raised the specter of exchanging thousands of dollars in payments to his company for the right to buy billions of dollars in weapons despite a horrid human rights record. Here’s what the State Department’s latest human rights report had to say about Bahrain:

“Human rights groups reported prisoner accounts alleging security officials beat them, placed them in stress positions, humiliated them in front of other prisoners, deprived them of sleep and prayers, insulted them based on their religious beliefs, and subjected them to sexual harassment, including removal of clothing and threat of rape.”

And here’s the status of women in Bahrain:

“No government policies or laws explicitly address domestic violence. Human rights organizations alleged spousal abuse of women was widespread. According to the BCHR, 30 percent of women had experienced some form of domestic abuse. Women rarely sought legal redress for violence due to fear of social reprisal or stigma. Authorities devoted little public attention to the problem…Women faced discrimination under the law.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 4:49 pm

Trump Supporters Were More Motivated By Racism Than Economic Issues

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Mehdi Hasan reports in The Intercept:

IT ISN’T ONLY Republicans, it seems, who traffic in alternative facts. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise.

Consider Bernie Sanders, de facto leader of the #Resistance. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks,” he said at a rally in Boston on Friday, alongside fellow progressive senator Elizabeth Warren. “I don’t agree.” Writing in the New York Times three days after the election last November, the senator from Vermont claimed Trump voters were “expressing their fierce opposition to an economic and political system that puts wealthy and corporate interests over their own”.

Warren agrees with him. “There were millions of people across this country who voted for [Trump] not because of his bigotry, but in spite of that bigotry” because the system is “not working for them economically,” the Massachusetts senator told MSNBC last year.

Both Sanders and Warren seem much keener to lay the blame at the door of the dysfunctional Democratic Party and an ailing economy than at the feet of racist Republican voters. Their deflection isn’t surprising. Nor is their coddling of those who happily embraced an openly xenophobic candidate. Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots?

Facts, however, as a rather more illustrious predecessor of President Trump once remarked, “are stubborn things.” Interestingly, on the very same day that Sanders offered his evidence-free defense of Trump voters in Boston, the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) was released.

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over this ANES data and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.”

The new ANES data only confirms what a plethora of studies have told us since the start of the presidential campaign: the race was about race. Klinkner himself grabbed headlines last summer when he revealed that the best way to identify a Trump supporter in the U.S. was to ask “just one simple question: is Barack Obama a Muslim?” Because, he said, “if they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” This is economic anxiety? Really?

Other surveys and polls of Trump voters found “a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump”; Trump supporters being “more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’”; more likely to believe “people of color are taking white jobs”; and a “majority” of them rating blacks “as less evolved than whites.” Sorry, but how can any of these prejudices be blamed on free trade or low wages?

For Sanders, Warren and others on the left, the economy is what matters most and class is everything. Yet the empirical evidence just isn’t there to support them. Yes Trump won a (big) majority of non-college-educated whites, but he also won a majority of college-educated whites, too. He won more young white voters than Clinton did and also a majority of white women; he managed to win white votes regardless of age, gender, income or education. Class wasn’t everything in 2016. In a recent essay in The Nation, analysts Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel point out that “income predicted support for McCain and Romney, but not Trump.” Their conclusion? “Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics.”

Their view is backed by a detailed Gallup analysis of interviews with a whopping 125,000 Americans, which found that Trump supporters, far from being the “left behind” or the losers of globalization, “earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.” The “bottom line” for Gallup’s senior economist Jonathan Rothwell? “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship.” . . .

Continue reading.

The conclusion:

. . . If Democrats are going to have any chance of winning back the White House in 2020, they have to understand why they lost in 2016, and that understanding has to be based on facts and figures, however inconvenient or awkward. The Sanders/Warren/Moore wing of the party is right to focus on fair trade and income equality; the calls for higher wages and better regulation are morally and economically correct. What they are not, however, is some sort of silver bullet to solve the issue of racism. As the University of California’s Michael Tesler, author of “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era,” has pointed out, the “evidence suggests that racial resentment is driving economic anxiety, not the other way around.”

Always remember: You have to identify the disease before you can begin work on a cure. In the case of support for Donald Trump, the results are in: It isn’t the economy. It’s the racism, stupid.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

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Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept has a somewhat cynical take (albeit accurate in the effects) on the Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian airfield (from which planes took off on new missions within the same day).

IN EVERY TYPE of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible”:

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.

The CIA has spent more than a billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.

Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and Greenwald spells out the takeaway in ten numbered sections, titled as follows:

  1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.

  2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

  3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

  4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

  5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

  6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

  7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

  8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”

  9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

  10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

 

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 3:27 pm

The Car Insurance Industry Attacks ProPublica’s Story. Here’s their Response.

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ProPublica writes:

Earlier this week, we published an investigation with Consumer Reports in which we found that many minority neighborhoods pay higher car insurance premiums than white areas with the same risk. Our findings were based on analysis of insurance premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri. We found insurers such as Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual were charging premiums that were as much as 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs. (Here are details on how we did the analysis.)

An industry trade group, the Insurance Information Institute, responded in the Insurance Journal. The piece, by James Lynch, vice president of research and information services, calls our article “inaccurate, unfair, and irresponsible.” We disagree. As we typically do with our reporting, we contacted the industry well ahead of publication and gave it an opportunity to review our data and methodology and respond to our findings.

Here is the response we and Consumer Reports sent to the Insurance Journal.


While we appreciate that Mr. Lynch and the industry may disagree with our findings and conclusions, we want to correct for readers several errors he made in describing our work. In fact, we released a detailed methodology of our study, primarily to be as transparent and forthright as possible about what we did and did not do, and about the limitations of our analysis.

Mr. Lynch writes that we concluded that “auto insurers charge unfairly high rates to people in minority and low-income communities.” In fact, we found that the disparities were not limited to low-income communities and persist even in affluent minority neighborhoods.

Mr. Lynch writes that we made a mistake by “comparing the losses of all drivers within a ZIP code to the premium charged to a single person.” This assertion does not properly characterize what we did. We compared the average premium in minority zip codes to the average premium in neighborhoods with similar accident costs and a higher proportion of white residents.

Mr. Lynch writes that insurance companies do not set rates based on race or income. Our article does not say that they do. However, as our article pointed out, companies can use such criteria as credit score and occupation, which have been shown to result in higher prices for minorities.

Mr. Lynch writes that we did not address “how auto insurers priced policies where data about the policyholders and a ZIP code’s loss costs was thin.” In fact, we analyzed in detail California’s system of allowing insurers to set rates for sparsely populated rural areas by considering risk in contiguous zip codes.

Mr. Lynch writes that we do not consider that “an auto insurer’s individual loss costs … could vary from the statewide average.” In fact, we acknowledged this point in our article as a potential limitation of our study, while noting that the internal data of one insurance company, Nationwide, showed a greater disparity than the statewide average.

Mr. Lynch also implies we only applied our analysis to a 30-year-old driver. As we acknowledged in our methodology, we could not take every variable into account. We did repeat our analysis for more than 40 driver profiles that differed by age, gender, number of drivers and number of cars. When we ran the numbers, we found consistent results.

Our methodology was developed over more than a year and reviewed by a variety of independent experts in the field (including academics, statisticians and former regulators), whose feedback we incorporated. We were transparent with the Insurance Information Institute and with the firm the trade group hired, providing all our data and even our code to ensure they could fairly respond.

We would welcome the same transparency in return. While the industry criticizes ProPublica and Consumer Reports for not using company-specific data, such as individual insurers’ losses in each zip code, it does not make this information available. If the industry would release it, we would welcome the opportunity to take a look and continue the conversation.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Clear evidence of racism in the U.S., particularly within law enforcement

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

The Tampa Bay Times has just published a survey of Florida police shootings between 2009 and 2014. What the newspaper found is striking — although if you’ve seen similar studies from other states, it also isn’t terribly surprising.

First, though whites outnumber blacks in Florida by about 3-to-1, the paper found that cops shot more black people than white people. Police groups and their supporters will of course say that this is because blacks commit more crimes, are more likely to confront police, and that police are more likely to find themselves in black neighborhoods.

But the next set of numbers are more difficult to explain away. The paper focused on shootings in which the victim had neither threatened police with a weapon, nor committed a violent crime. If you subscribe to the “police shoot more black people because black people are more likely to be violent criminals” line of thought, you’d expect to see the racial disparity disappear in these numbers, or at least to narrow. Instead, it grew. Black people outnumbered white people in these incidents by nearly 2-to-1 (97-50). Police shot 55 unarmed black people vs. 25 white people. Police shot 15 black people who had been pulled over for only a traffic violation, vs. six white people. They shot 19 black people after mistaking a non-weapon for a weapon, vs. eight white people. They were about three times as likely to shot a black person who was running away (16-5), or who was suspected for a minor crime like drug possession or shoplifting (17-6), and four times as likely to shoot a black person in the back (8-2).

Perhaps most disturbingly, the paper found six incidents in which Florida cops shot a motorist because they mistakenly thought the motorist was reaching for a weapon. Five of those motorists were black. This goes back to the perpetuation of the fear of the ambush traffic stop, which is drummed into the heads of police officers over and over. It isn’t that such incidents never happen, but they’re exceedingly rare — a tiny, tiny fraction of traffic stops. A 2001 study in the Journal of Criminal Science found that even during the 1990s, a much more violent era than the one we live in today, under the worst-case scenario, about 1 in 6.7 million traffic stops resulted in the death of a police officer. When the authors used a more inclusive definition of “traffic stop,” the figure was 1 in 20 million.

Here’s a typical story from the series. The motorist is Rodney Mitchell, a 23-year-old black man and former college football player who was driving home from his job at a department store.

Adam Shaw had made mistakes in 2½ years with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. He’d been disciplined for stopping minority residents for seatbelt violations then illegally searching their cars. Now he was part of Operation Armistice. Police were saturating north Sarasota to reduce crime. The black community scornfully called it Operation Amistad, after the slave ship.

Mitchell, in the Jeep with Florida tag GODANGL, was the next target.

Shaw would later say he saw Mitchell wasn’t wearing a seatbelt as the two passed on the road going opposite directions, even if it was nighttime and the Jeep had tinted windows. He would say the car didn’t stop soon enough, and that after it stopped, the driver was moving around a lot inside. He would say the driver refused to put the car into park.

What Mitchell’s 16-year-old cousin remembers from the passenger’s seat is a white cop rushing to the driver’s window and shouting: “Boy, why didn’t you stop the car?”

He remembers another officer walking to the front of the Jeep, the spotlight from his vehicle beaming through the windshield. He remembers Rodney Mitchell’s hands on the steering wheel, and Shaw ordering him to put the car into park. He remembers his unarmed cousin moving his right hand from the wheel toward the gearshift, then the flash from a muzzle, then the sound of four shots.

Pop, pop, pop, pop.

From stop to gunfire: 41 seconds.

Natasha Clemons raced to the scene when a friend called. Police would not let her go to Mitchell, sprawled in the driver’s seat, wearing his seatbelt. She collapsed right there, bathed in the blue lights of the lawmen who killed her only son.

Let’s talk about that seat belt. Last year, I posted about a study by the ACLU of Florida finding that black motorists in Florida are twice as likely as white motorists to be pulled over for seat-belt violations, despite being only slightly less likely to buckle up. (And it isn’t the first time a seat-belt violation has led to a police killing in Florida.)

In short, if you’re black in Florida, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

A master woodworker turns a giant log into an elegant dugout canoe

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Jason Kottke has a good post that includes this video (along with the advice to watch it all):

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Stephen Colbert has a good riff on Bannon’s total cuck move

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It’s generally not a bright idea to insult the boss’s relatives behind his back.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:49 am

A maid begged for help before falling from a window in Kuwait. Her boss made a video instead.

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A total lack of empathy that, to me, is shocking. Avi Selk reports in the Washington Post:

The floor looks clean in this high-rise apartment, seven stories above Kuwait City traffic. Not a smudge in sight on the picture window. On the other side of the glass, the maid is hanging on by one knuckle, screaming.

“Oh crazy, come here,” a woman says casually in Arabic, holding a camera up to the maid.

“Hold on to me! Hold on to me!” the maid yells.

Instead, the woman steps back. The maid’s grip finally slips, and she lands in a cloud of dust, many stories below.

The maid — an Ethiopian who had been working in the country for several years, according to the Kuwait Times — survived the fall. The videographer, her employer, was arrested last week on a charge of failing to help the worker.

It’s still unclear what led to the fall. But it was not the first time a domestic servant had fallen off of a building in Kuwait, an oil-rich country where foreign workers are cheap, plentiful and live largely at the mercy of their employers.

Human Rights Watch has spent years documenting cases of workers abused, exploited, attacked or driven to desperation by a draconian labor system called kafala, in which foreigners surrender rights to get a work visa in the Persian Gulf.

Like thousands of others, its investigators are disturbed by the Kuwait City video.

“I’ve talked to workers who said they had to figure out a way to escape, and scrambled off buildings to do so,” said Rothna Begum, a researcher for the rights group. “What was shocking about this video is that the employer had filmed it from inside the flat — while she [the worker] is asking for help.”

The woman, who reportedly landed on an awning and broke an arm in the fall, is one of more than 600,000 foreigners working in Kuwait, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate.

That’s about one servant for each family in a country of about 3 million people, Begum said.

“It’s becoming quite trendy,” she said. “Even low- and middle-income families will have a domestic worker. They’re considered to be incredibly cheap, and you can exploit them.”

In a 2010 report, the rights group collected anecdotes from workers across Kuwait, including an Ethiopian woman who called her boss “Mama.”

“Mama would close the fridge; we were not allowed to take any food,” the woman is quoted as saying. “She also beat me if there was anything wrong, like a tiny speck of dust. I worked from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m.”

It’s not uncommon for employers to lock their servants inside apartments and compounds, Begum said — even though they can be arrested and deported for leaving without their employers’ permission.

A Filipina worker — called Alida in the report — told Human Rights Watch what happened when her boss found out she’d sought help after working long hours with little food.

“After returning home, the employer hit Alida in the face and said, ‘I’ll let you die first before you go,’ ” the report reads. “She [dragged me by] my blouse in her two hands and pushed me. She threw me out of the window from the third floor.”

Alida woke up in a hospital, according to the report, and learned that her employers had filed charges against her and said she tried to kill herself. . .

Continue reading.

It’s stunning that such cruelty and callous behavior is apparently common. I’m experiencing a bit of culture shock.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:40 am

Posted in Daily life

The unexpected difficulties of bring good food to blighted neighborhoods

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Daniel Duane has a long and absorbing article in the California Sunday magazine that will interest anyone who likes food. The article shows that good ideas don’t guarantee easy acceptance:

A little over a year ago, in a small building at the corner of East 103rd Street and Anzac Avenue in South Los Angeles, chef Daniel Patterson zigzagged among trainees in the bright clean kitchen of what was about to become Locol, the fast-food restaurant with a mission. Patterson was 47 years old, bone-pale and wiry, and among the most creative American chefs of his generation. He owned five restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and had another on the way. He was also one of the cool kids of international fine dining, invited to speak at the most prestigious culinary conferences and part of a circle of friends that includes the Italian chef Massimo Bottura, the Danish chef René Redzepi, and the Australian chef Ben Shewry, owners of, respectively, the restaurants currently ranked first, fifth, and 33rd in the world.

Patterson’s trainees were almost entirely from Jordan Downs, the 714-unit public housing project in Watts. Many had never been employed before, and those with prior cooking experience had worked mostly in conventional fast food or prison cafeterias. They paid rapt attention as Patterson showed them how to weigh out patty-size balls of Locol’s signature burger blend, a pale pink combination of ground beef, tofu, barley, quinoa, and seaweed.

For the previous two years, Patterson and his partner Roy Choi, the tattooed king of L.A. food trucks, had been raising money, developing recipes, designing the Locol brand, overseeing construction, and giving presentations and interviews about their plan to disrupt the predatory corporate fast-food industry. They talked about creating a chain of gorgeous new restaurants that served healthy food at Burger King prices in so-called food deserts, impoverished communities where the only places that sell anything edible are liquor stores, convenience stores, and conventional franchises. They promised to hire from surrounding neighborhoods and pay fair wages while teaching the culinary fundamentals necessary to launch a cooking career. That first Locol, near Jordan Downs in the core territory of the Grape Street Crips, one of the most famous African American gangs in the United States, had been deliberately designed to appeal to neighborhood residents and not look like the first step toward gentrification.

Patterson and Choi were too culturally sophisticated to come out and say their expansion plans targeted other low-income African American communities, but that is what the list had come to look like. After East 103rd and Anzac, they hoped to build on the other side of Watts near the Nickerson Gardens housing project, then maybe nearby in Compton, then East Oakland, South Side Chicago, Detroit, and Ferguson, Missouri. Patterson even echoed tech culture’s obsession with scaling ideas to a thousand X, saying that he figured they might open a thousand Locols over the next five years.

To get that first Locol built, Patterson, who lives with his wife and two children in Oakland, spent half his time in Watts for more than six months while still working a full schedule of long and arduous dinner shifts at Coi, the two-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco at which he built his international reputation. Then, in early January 2016, Patterson permanently handed off Coi to another chef and spent nearly three straight weeks in Watts to prepare his crew for opening day.

Weaving through that kitchen, with only a week to go, Patterson found a pot of rice burning on the stove. His angular and sensitive face twitched with fury before he remembered the cardinal kitchen rule that Choi, who happened to appear just then, made for Patterson and other outsiders. To wit: “You cannot yell at people in Watts.”

“Not that we would,” said Choi, a no-nonsense presence weaving past in a black Stussy T-shirt and black ball cap.

“Well, some of the rich kids I deal with,” Patterson said, referring to his employees in San Francisco, “I have to yell to let them know I’m serious, because they’ve never known trauma or difficulties like people down here.”

“It isn’t a matter of that,” said Choi gently. “They’ve just never done this before. You can’t yell at someone for not ever doing something.”

atterson took Choi’s point to heart and said, “Their learning curve really is much faster than anything I have ever seen.” Patterson beckoned to 36-year-old Keith Corbin, who learned to cook at home and during the ten years he spent in prison. After his release, Corbin worked for a year at a Chevron oil refinery, quickly rose to manager, then quit for a supervisory job at Locol, where his mother and brother had also been hired. With an air of enduring patience, Corbin leaned close as Patterson said, “Keith, we’re going to need to get all the cooks together for a come-to-Jesus moment, because if it continues this way, we are just going to get flattened. Speaking of … I’m getting flattened. I need a coffee.”

Patterson stepped out the back door onto a sunny patio where three neighborhood men worked as “ambassadors” — greeters, really, but also unofficial security guards and community liaisons tasked with convincing neighbors that Locol really was for them. Watts has such a deep history of economic betrayal and abandonment, such pervasive skepticism about outsiders making big promises, and such well-founded fear of gentrification — a billion-­dollar “urban transformation” plan has the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti — that acceptance of a splashy new restaurant created by two famous outsider chefs who are not African American was not a given.

Patterson embraced an ambassador named Anthony “Ant” Adams, a 44-year-old poet who was in the middle of telling a visitor about getting shot five times with an AK-47 during a 2007 attempt on his life a few yards from where he was currently standing. Patterson then walked past an ATM/lottery/tobacco shop where floor-to-ceiling bulletproof Plexiglas separated customers from the cashier and inventory. He entered a store called Donut Town & Water, where a young man sold doughnuts, water, and other convenience foods, also from behind Plexiglas. Patterson ordered coffee to go and said, as if exhilarated by the speed and audacity of his own thoughts, “I can’t remember if I told you that Roy and I might start a coffee company, too. We’re bringing back the great $1 cup. The fancy coffee industry is not going to be happy with us. We’re going into institutional food, too. We’re already talking about prisons and hospitals and schools. It all comes back to this question of ‘Why does our society always serve the worst food to the neediest people?’ It makes no sense. And everybody always says, ‘That’s just the way it is, there’s no other way,’ but we are going to prove that whole paradigm is fundamentally false.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:36 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

A very promising advance: Graphene-based sieve turns seawater into drinking water

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Paul Rincon has some good news on BBC News:

A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.

The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.

The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes.

It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale.

Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, show how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.

Isolated and characterised by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications.

But it has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly.

On the other hand, said Dr Nair, “graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab”.

He told BBC News: “As an ink or solution, we can compose it on a substrate or porous material. Then we can use it as a membrane.

“In terms of scalability and the cost of the material, graphene oxide has a potential advantage over single-layered graphene.”

Of the single-layer graphene he added: “To make it permeable, you need to drill small holes in the membrane. But if the hole size is larger than one nanometre, the salts go through that hole. You have to make a membrane with a very uniform less-than-one-nanometre hole size to make it useful for desalination. It is a really challenging job.”

Graphene oxide membranes have already proven their worth in sieving out small nanoparticles, organic molecules and even large salts. But until now, they couldn’t be used to filter out common salts, which require even smaller sieves.

Previous work had shown that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:31 am

Gender inequality on the Supreme Court

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Jason Kottke has an interesting post:

Tonja Jacobi and Dylan Schweers have published the results of a study they’ve done related to the role of gender in the workings of the Supreme Court. They found that female justices are interrupted much more often by male justices and advocates than male justices are.

Our empirical study examines interruptions among justices, and between the justices and the advocates, during Supreme Court oral arguments. It shows that women still do not have an equal opportunity to be heard on the highest court in the land. In fact, as more women join the court, the reaction of the male justices and the male advocates has been to increase their interruptions of the female justices.

Even in the most powerful courtroom in the world, the women are being verbally dominated.

Even without adjusting for the low representation of women, the effect is stark. On average, women constituted 22 percent of the court, yet 52 percent of interruptions were directed at them. Overwhelmingly, it was men doing the interrupting: Women interrupted only 15 percent of the time and men interrupted 85 percent of the time, more than their 78 percent representation on the court.

Their study shows that seniority can’t explain this effect — “gender is approximately 30 times more influential than seniority” — but some of it can be explained in terms of political ideology: conservative justices interrupt more than liberal justices do.

We found that the power dynamic does not only affect women: In a court that has been dominated by Republican appointees for over half a century, conservative justices have also dominated liberal justices by interrupting them. We expected cross-ideological interruptions to occur more often than interruptions within ideological camps, and this is true: 62 percent of interruptions cross ideological lines, compared to 38 percent within an ideological camp. However, the effect does not go in both directions: 70 percent of interruptions were of liberals, and only 30 percent of conservatives. Once again, advocates display the same tendency. Advocates interrupting the liberal justices account for over ten percent of interruptions, yet advocate interruptions of the conservative justices account for less than three percent of interruptions. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

“Double King,” an interesting animation short by Felix Colgrave

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And he has more on YouTube.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 11:15 am

Posted in Movies & TV

LA Times editorial series on Trump, Part 6: ‘California Fights Back’

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The LA Times editorial board writes:

hen Donald Trump threatened on the campaign trail to deport every single immigrant living in the country illegally, bring back offshore drilling and reverse the anti-pollution policies that help clear smoggy skies, Californians immediately understood that our state would be disproportionately affected — and disproportionately harmed — by the reckless policies he was hoping to enact.

After he was sworn in, he went further, singling out the state for attack. “California,” Trump declared in February, “in many ways is out of control.” In one overwrought tweet, he suggested that the federal government should cut all funding for UC Berkeley because a protest against a conservative guest speaker had turned violent. A few days later, he declared — even more irresponsibly — that he would “defund” the entire state if he felt it wasn’t cooperating sufficiently in his efforts to root out undocumented immigrants.

Trump had already alienated many state voters with his plans to build a costly and unnecessary border wall, revoke the health insurance of millions of low-income people and gut climate-change policies. Now, he was taking on California itself, a state in which more than one out of 10 Americans live, and which sends more than $350 billion to Washington each year in federal taxes (and gets substantially less than that back). A state with strong progressive values that it will not happily see undermined.

To express their dissatisfaction, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at rallies in the state’s major cities. One man’s quixotic California secession campaign became a cause célèbre. And California’s political leaders vowed to fight back.

Gov. Jerry Brown grumbled that if Trump cut climate data-gathering efforts, California would launch its “own damn satellite.” Legislators put former U.S. Atty. Gen Eric Holder on a hefty retainer to help challenge Trump’s initiatives in court even before he’d announced any. They filed a mountain of bills reacting to an array of reprehensible policies that the new president was thought to be considering. “We’re going to do what we need to do to protect the people of California,” said state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra.

The initial response of state leaders — which included some good ideas along with a bit of flailing and a touch of panic — was understandable given the enormity of the threat. But as we settle in for the next four years, California needs to be clear-eyed about the challenges it faces and strategic about how it responds. An all-out war with the federal government is neither sustainable nor wise. The state will have to choose its battles.

For starters, California should continue to pursue its agenda on human and civil rights, on clean air, water and climate change, and on equality. Trump can dismantle the federal Clean Power Plan, but he can’t stop the state from moving toward its renewable energy goal of 50% by 2030 as laid out in SB 350 two years ago. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can reduce national fuel efficiency standards, but if it seeks to revoke California’s waiver that lets the state set its own, tougher rules, state lawmakers should fight back, including taking the agency to court if necessary. Trump can continue his counterproductive and mean-spirited efforts to deport non-criminal immigrants living in the country illegally, but the state’s local law enforcement agencies are not legally required to do the feds’ job for them; they should not.

California’s political leaders should reach out to other states — including red ones — to develop alliances on issues of common concern. Trump’s contempt for renewable energy resources, the reform of marijuana laws and the expansion of Medicaid, for instance, will surely alienate officials in other state capitols. Smoggy skies aren’t unique to Los Angeles, and western states have already shown interest in investing in renewable energy.

However, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 10:49 am

The point-and-call method reduces errors in Japan’s train systems by 85%

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So why isn’t it done elsewhere? Because, I suppose, people resist change even when the change is in the direction of best practices. Or, less tactfully, people are pig-headed. Allan Richarz reports Atlas Obscura:

It is hard to miss when taking the train in Tokyo. White-gloved employees in crisp uniforms pointing smartly down the platform and calling out—seemingly to no one—as trains glide in and out of the station. Onboard is much the same, with drivers and conductors performing almost ritual-like movements as they tend to an array of dials, buttons and screens

Japan’s rail system has a well-deserved reputation for being among the very best in the world. An extensive network of tracks moving an estimated 12 billion passengers each year with an on-time performance measured in the seconds makes Japanese rail a precise, highly reliable transportation marvel.

Train conductors, drivers and station staff play an important role in the safe and efficient operation of the lines; a key aspect of which is the variety of physical gestures and vocal calls that they perform while undertaking their duties. While these might strike visitors as silly, the movements and shouts are a Japanese-innovated industrial safety method known as pointing-and-calling; a system that reduces workplace errors by up to 85 percent.

Known in Japanese as shisa kanko, pointing-and-calling works on the principle of associating one’s tasks with physical movements and vocalizations to prevent errors by “raising the consciousness levels of workers”—according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan. Rather than rely on a worker’s eyes or habit alone, each step in a given task is reinforced physically and audibly to ensure the step is both complete and accurate.

In the rail context, when train drivers wish to perform a required speed check, they do not simply glance at a display. Rather, the speedometer will be physically pointed at, with a call of “speed check, 80”—confirming the action taking place, and audibly confirming the correct speed. For station staff who ensure the platform-side tracks are free of debris or fallen passengers, a visual scan alone is not sufficient. Instead, the attendant will point down the track and sweep their arm along the length of the platform—eyes following the hand—before declaring all clear. The process repeats as the train departs, ensuring no bags—or passengers—are caught hanging from the train’s closed doors.

It is such an integral part of Japanese transportation that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 10:45 am

Going for a second shave with the iKon DLC slant, with Stubble Trubble and Barrister & Mann Cool Reserve

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I was so excited that yesterday’s shave with the iKon DLC was nick-free after switching to Derby Extra blades that I had to try it again right away. I swapped the iKon SE handle for the Wolfman handle shown in the photo.

But first, of course, the prep: Stubble Trubble Up and Adam is a new favorite: espresso and vanilla fragrance and a very nice lather indeed, worked up this morning with the Maggar 24mm synthetic shown.

My tremor was active this morning, so I had a little more difficulty—I wonder whether the heavier SE handle helped dampen the tremor, another experiment—and I did in fact get 3 or 4 tiny nicks on the upper lip. These, however, were dot-type nicks, not the line-type nicks I had been getting, and I feel fairly sure that a tremor-free shave would eliminate them. So I will try (a) replacing the blade and, if that doesn’t help, (b) switching back to the SE handle. But first I’ll try again as is, on a morning when tremors are absent.

A good splash of Barrister & Mann Reserve Cool, and the week draws to a close.

I want to draw your attention to a very good post by Jack Prenter at KnownMan.com, comparing the cost of shaving for: electric razor, cartridge razor, disposable razor, and double-edge safety razor. Very well done.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2017 at 10:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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