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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2017 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Comedy, Education, Video

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

leave a comment »

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?

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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.

leave a comment »

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

%d bloggers like this: