Later On

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Archive for May 7th, 2017

This is intolerable: E.P.A. Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board

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Coral Davenport reports in the NY Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.

A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.

The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.

President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change.

In his first outings as E.P.A. administrator, Mr. Pruitt has made a point of visiting coal mines and pledging that his agency will seek to restore that industry, even though many members of both of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards have historically recommended stringent constraints on coal pollution to combat climate change.

Mr. Freire said the agency wanted “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”

“We want to expand the pool of applicants” for the scientific board, he said, “to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.”

Some who opposed the dismissals denounced them as part of a broader push by the E.P.A. to downgrade science and elevate business interests.

“This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” said Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the E.P.A. strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development — you have to see all these things as interconnected.”

The scientists dismissed from the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors received emails from an agency official informing them that their three-year terms had expired and would not be renewed. That was contrary, the scientists said, to what they had been told by officials at the agency in January, just before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

“Most of us on the council are academic people,” said Ponisseril Somasundaran, a chemist at Columbia University who focuses on managing hazardous waste. “I think they want to bring in business and industry people.” . . .

Continue reading.

There’s more. The essential idea seems to be to put the EPA under the control of those businesses that wish to destroy the environment because taking care of the environment might impact their short-term profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 8:52 pm

Grounds for impeaching President Trump

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In less than 3 minutes, a clear explanation of the grounds on which Trump can be impeached:

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 8:10 pm

Adding “hubris” to DSM-5

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Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker:

In February, 2009, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of health and politics titled “Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?” The authors were David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who has studied the mental health of politicians. They proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, “impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.”

Owen and Davidson studied the behavior and medical records of dozens of American and British political leaders, from Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who took office in 1908, to President George W. Bush, who left office in 2009. Across that century, they identified a tendency among some otherwise high-achieving individuals to close themselves off from critics and to overestimate their odds of success. Neville Chamberlain wrongly believed that he could appease Hitler; Tony Blair supported the invasion of Iraq even after his envoy informed him that the plan had “no leadership, no strategy, no coördination,” among other defects. When a leader succumbs to hubris syndrome, the authors wrote, his experience at the top has distorted his personality and decision-making.
“The Greeks warned us about it,” Owen told me recently, when I called him at home, in Britain. “When you see it, you’ve got to be very conscious that you may be watching somebody who is intoxicated with power.” After training as a doctor, Owen spent thirty-two years in politics, heading the Foreign Office from 1977 to 1979, and he developed a fascination with the ways in which C.E.O.s, dictators, and parliamentarians who are otherwise successful in their professions can be warped by the pressures and self-glorification presented by power. “It takes one to know one,” he said, dryly. “For a lot of us who are in leadership roles, the problem with the word ‘narcissism’ is that it has a very Freudian linkage and, if you use it, people will shy away from it.”
Owen was only partly interested in establishing a formal diagnosis. (Hubris syndrome does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.) More fundamentally, he wanted to call out a kind of public cognitive bias, in which voters and shareholders are often slow to acknowledge signs of irrational behavior in their chosen leaders because that acknowledgment reflects poorly on the decision to put them there. “You get rumors or people are telling you that things aren’t going all that marvellously, and either you’ve made a wrong choice or something has happened to him,” Owen told me. He helped establish a charity, the Daedalus Trust, which raises public awareness of hubris syndrome in public life, and he encourages institutions—banks, schools, political entities—to assess leaders’ mental health on a fixed schedule. “Then it’s easier to spot an incipient intoxication of power,” he said.
President Donald Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 5:55 pm

How Trump could be fired.

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Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker:

Hours after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, a post appeared on the official White House petitions page, demanding that he release his tax returns. In only a few days, it gathered more signatures than any previous White House petition. The success of the Women’s March had shown that themed protests could both mobilize huge numbers of people and hit a nerve with the President. On Easter weekend, roughly a hundred and twenty thousand people protested in two hundred cities, calling for him to release his tax returns and sell his businesses. On Capitol Hill, protesters chanted “Impeach Forty-five!” In West Palm Beach, a motorcade ferrying him from the Trump International Golf Club to Mar-a-Lago had to take a circuitous route to avoid demonstrators. The White House does all it can to keep the President away from protests, but the next day Trump tweeted, “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”

On Tax Day itself, Trump travelled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he would be among his supporters again, giving a speech at Snap-on, a manufacturer of high-end power tools and other gear. Wisconsin has emerged as one of Trump’s favorite states. He is the first Republican Presidential candidate to win there since 1984. He included the state in a post-election “thank-you tour.” Another visit was planned for shortly after the Inauguration, but it was cancelled once it became clear that it would attract protests.

By this point in George W. Bush’s term, Bush had travelled to twenty-three states and a foreign country. Trump has visited just nine states and has never stayed the night. He inhabits a closed world that one adviser recently described to me as “Fortress Trump.” Rarely venturing beyond the White House and Mar-a-Lago, he measures his fortunes through reports from friends, staff, and a feast of television coverage of himself. Media is Trump’s “drug of choice,” Sam Nunberg, an adviser on his campaign, told me recently. “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. His drug is himself.”

Trump’s Tax Day itinerary enabled him to avoid the exposure of a motorcade; instead, he flew on Marine One directly to Snap-on’s headquarters. Several hundred protesters were outside chanting and holding signs. But the event’s organizers had created a wall of tractor-trailers around the spot where Trump would land, blocking protesters from seeing Trump and him from seeing them.

Snap-on’s headquarters, a gleaming expanse of stainless steel, chrome, and enamel, provided a fine backdrop for muscular American manufacturing, though in fact the firm closed its Kenosha factory more than a decade ago. Nick Pinchuk, the C.E.O., led Trump past displays of Snap-on products, showing him a car hooked up to state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment (“It’s a different world!” Trump mused), and a table of Snap-on souvenirs, including small, colorful metal boxes that Pinchuk said some customers buy to hold ashes after a cremation. “That’s kind of depressing,” Trump said.

An auditorium was packed with local dignitaries and Snap-on employees. As “Hail to the Chief” played on the sound system, Trump stepped onto the stage. He stood in front of a sculpture of an American flag rippling in the wind, made from hundreds of Snap-on wrenches. Behind him was a banner: “buy american—hire american.” For a moment, the President, wearing a red tie, leaning on the lectern, looked as if he were back on the campaign trail. “These are great, great people,” he began. “And these are real workers. I love the workers.”

“We don’t have a level playing field,” he said. It was a treasured campaign line, to which he now added a vow of imminent progress: “You’re gonna have one very soon.” After Republicans abandoned their first effort to enact health-care reform, and courts blocked two executive orders designed to curb immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, he was determined to dispel any sense that his Administration had been weakened. “Our tax reform and tax plan is coming along very well,” he assured the crowd. “It’s going to be out very soon. We’re working on health care and we’re going to get that done, too.”

Trump’s approval rating is forty per cent—the lowest of any newly elected President since Gallup started measuring it. Even before Trump  . . .

Continue reading.

Later:

For Trump’s allies, the depth of his unpopularity is an urgent cause for alarm. “You can’t govern this country with a forty-per-cent approval rate. You just can’t,” Stephen Moore, a senior economist at the Heritage Foundation, who advised Trump during the campaign, told me. “Nobody in either party is going to bend over backwards for Trump if over half the country doesn’t approve of him. That, to me, should be a big warning sign.”

And later:

It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too. From January to April, the number of Americans who had a favorable view of the Republican Party dropped seven points, to forty per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. I asked Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, if he had ever seen so much skepticism so early in a Presidency. “No, nobody has,” he said. “But we’ve never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don’t mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise.” Very few Republicans in Congress have openly challenged Trump, but Taylor cautioned against interpreting that as committed support. “My guess is that there’s only between fifty and a hundred Republican members of the House that are truly enthusiastic about Donald Trump as President,” he said. “The balance sees him as somewhere between a deep and dangerous embarrassment and a threat to the Constitution.”

And later:

Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that, in this instance, the Goldwater rule is outweighed by another ethical commitment: a “duty to warn” others when he assesses that a person might harm them. Dodes told me, “Trump is going to face challenges from people who are not going to bend to his will. If you have a President who takes it as a personal attack on him, which he does, and flies into a paranoid rage, that’s how you start a war.”

And later:

To some mental-health professionals, the debate over diagnoses and the Goldwater rule distracts from a larger point. “This issue is not whether Donald Trump is mentally ill but whether he’s dangerous,” James Gilligan, a professor of psychiatry at New York University, told attendees at a recent public meeting at Yale School of Medicine on the topic of Trump’s mental health. “He publicly boasts of violence and has threatened violence. He has urged followers to beat up protesters. He approves of torture. He has boasted of his ability to commit and get away with sexual assault,” Gilligan said.

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

This is serious, folks.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 5:44 pm

Totally amazing come from behind to win: Ronnie O’Sullivan and a comment on competition

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The sound is useful in this video.

I just saw on Facebook a brief video by Elisabet Sahtouris about a basketball game she watched many years ago in China, just after the Cultural Revolution. She went with a Chinese friend, and Chinese basketball is coached and played exactly as in the U.S.: same rules, same goal.

Her friend cheered the first basket, so she knew which was his team. But then he cheered when the opposing team made a basket. And so it went through the game: he cheered for each basket, regardless of the team. So she had to ask him which was his team.

He didn’t understand, so she explained that he cheered for both sides, so she didn’t know which was his. He said that he wasn’t cheering for the sides but for the excellence, and he cheered that regardless of which team achieved it. The reason, he explained, that they put two teams in competition was so they could drive each other to excellence, and “we cheer the excellence.”

She pointed out that this could be done in any school: the coach and the players do as they always do, but the audience is told to cheer for excellence. She suggested that what we call the “winning” team take the “losing” team to dinner to thank them for driving them to excellence.

It’s a cooperative competition, with the emphasis on the unity of the effort and the competition merely as a tool to stimulate excellence in all. Keep the competition in the context of oneness and community.

It occurs to me that this is how announcers view the game: they point out the excellent plays (and the mishaps) on both sides.

I’m going to look for more of her talks. There are quite a few on YouTube.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Video

Bosses believe your work skills will soon be useless

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Danielle Paquette reports in the Washington Post:

Nearly a third of business leaders and technology analysts express “no confidence” that education and job training in the United States will evolve rapidly enough to match the next decade’s labor market demands, a new report from the Pew Research Center finds.

About 30 percent of the executives, hiring managers, college professors and automation researchers who responded to the Pew survey felt future prospects looked bleak, anticipating that firms would encounter more trouble finding workers with their desired skill sets over the next decade.

“Barring a neuroscience advance that enables us to embed knowledge and skills directly into brain tissue and muscle formation, there will be no quantum leap in our ability to ‘up-skill’ people,” wrote Andrew Walls, managing vice president at Gartner, an IT consulting firm.

“Seriously? You’re asking about the workforce of the future?” added another respondent, a science editor who asked to stay anonymous. “As if there’s going to be one?”

Lee Rainie, Pew’s director of Internet, science and technology research, the study’s co-author, helped canvass, reaching out to 8,000 decision makers in Pew’s database. About 1,400 responded, and many of those told the researchers they were bracing for machines to transform the ways humans work — sometimes in unpredictable ways.

“People are wrestling with this basic metaphysical question: What are humans good for?” he said. “It’s important to figure that out because this blended world of machines and humans is already upon us and it’s going to accelerate.”

Most of the business and technology professionals expected new training programs to emerge, both at schools and on the private market, to better prepare the future labor force. But 30 percent of the 1,408 respondents doubted such a quick transformation could take place. They felt, according to the report, that “adaptation in teaching environments will not be sufficient to prepare workers for future jobs.”

Jerry Michalski, the founder at REX, a technology think tank in Portland, Ore., feared public schools and universities aren’t keeping up with changes in the economy.

“They take too long to teach impractical skills,” he wrote, “and knowledge not connected to the real world.” [Of course, the skill of learning how to learn efficiently and effectively is a highly practical skill, given that training is immediately outdated as technology evolves—having the skill of learning will not be outdated. The skill of learning is one of the skills learned in the liberal arts, which I a sure Mr. Michalski would discard in a heartbeat. He doesn’t get how liberal arts teaches highly valuable skills, but he does get that it leads people to think for themselves and question authority, and that’s the last thing on earth a corporate culture wants. It wants people who will follow orders and chase whatever kibble they’re doling out to motivate the workers to keep the wealth flowing to the top. – LG]

“I’m skeptical that educational and training programs can keep pace with technology,” added Thomas Claburn, editor-at-large at Information Week, a news site. [And thus the importance of learning how to learn. – LG] . . .

Continue reading.

Increasingly I am concerned that our government and other institutions are not planning their response to the upcoming vaporization of millions of jobs. What are they going to do? Is the plan to wait until it hits and then make a plan?

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 4:24 pm

“A woman was convicted for laughing at Jeff Sessions. It’s my patriotic duty to call bullshit.”

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Lizz Winstead reports at Vox:

Maybe we should have guessed that an administration led by a man who didn’t want to be made fun of at the White House Correspondents dinner also may send a lady in a pink crown to jail for laughing at its Attorney General. Big shocker. Our over-reactive, thin-skinned, sexist thug of a president has created an over-reactive, thin-skinned, sexist thuggish Justice Department.

Earlier this year Desiree Fairooz was arrested for the crime of laughing at a particularly gaslighty comment during the confirmation hearings of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. And this week we learned that she was convicted and could face 12 months in prison, $2,000 in fines, or both.

I’m personally offended at the idea that a bunch of powerful men could lock up a woman who has an appreciation for irony. I’ve made my career using comedy to expose the hypocrisy of the powerful. It’s the whole point of the very popular television program The Daily Show,which I co-created. It’s also the point of Lady Parts Justice League, a cabal of comics I brought together to expose creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion.

So when the government comes after a woman for laughing in the face of political hypocrisy, it’s my patriotic duty to call bullshit.

Here are the horrifically dangerous actions of Desiree Fairooz at Sessions’ January confirmation hearing:

In his glowing remarks about the future Attorney General, Senator Richard Shelby was prattling on that Sessions’s history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

This is when the laugh came out of Fairooz’s mouth. I am sure it was similar to a variation of the guttural utterances anyone with a heart, a pulse, and a thirst for facts has been spewing during this unintended comedy show we have all been living since the election.

In fact, . . .

Continue reading.

There’s quite a bit more, and it’s of interest.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2017 at 4:13 pm

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