Later On

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

Archive for May 16th, 2017

Outlook for college grads

leave a comment »

Very interesting column by Danielle Paquette in the Washington Post on the impact of automation and AI on highly compensated jobs (banking, finance, software engineering). The column opens with:

The job title “Wall Street trader” once evoked sleek suits, martini-soaked lunches and chaotic offices  — a gateway to prosperity at a relatively young age. But earlier this year, Marty Chavez, the chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs, revealed that some of the investment bank’s well-paid humans were being replaced by unpaid robots.

Over the last seventeen years, the number of stock traders at the firm has shrunk from 600 to two, he told  a Harvard computer science symposium in January. . .

And it concludes with:

. . .“Investment banking is next on the chopping block,” Webb said. And engineering isn’t off the hook, either. “The next iteration of artificial intelligence,” she said, “is artificial intelligence creating software for itself.”

In one Google Brain experiment, for example, software became better at teaching itself tasks — such as navigating a maze, for example — than the engineers who were charged with making it smarter.

“That obviates the need,” she said, “for a human engineer.”

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 8:15 pm

Comey may have gotten his man

leave a comment »

Jennifer Rubin has a very good column, well worth reading. In the column she quotes Chuck Schumer::

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was somber on the floor of the Senate. “In a week full of revelation after revelation, on a day when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have.” He continued, “I was shaken by the report in the New York Times that alleged that the president tried to shut down an active FBI investigation into a close political associate. And we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary.” He warned, “Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate: History is watching.”

Earlier in the column Rubin writes:

One is tempted to marvel at the sheer stupidity of Trump, who somehow thought he could not only fire but humiliate the FBI director who was investigating him and his administration with no consequence. But Trump has always been Trump’s greatest liability — the hubris, the ignorance, the impulsiveness.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 4:38 pm

Wow: Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

leave a comment »

This seems to me to suggest strongly that the FBI is going to find some incriminating (as in “criminal”) behavior, and Trump was desperate to head it off, which makes sense (given Trump’s obvious narcissism) only if stopping the investigation benefits Trump himself. I would guess that he is guilty (and knows it) of some serioous offenses.

If the GOP Congress continues to tie themselves to him, they are as stupid as I’ve often thought them to be.

Here’s the report.

From the report:

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the ongoing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an investigation into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates. [Which sounds to me like we need a special prosecutor stat. = LG]

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little more than two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner in the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 2:50 pm

Fascinating on-the-ground story of White House meltdown

leave a comment »

Great report. I particularly like this series of three tweets:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 2:12 pm

Our country is not being run very well: Repeated warnings preceded collapse of a Hanford tunnel storing deadly wastes

leave a comment »

Peter Cary and Patrick Malone report at the Center for Public Integrity:

A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.

Under an agreement overseen by a federal court in eastern Washington, the department was supposed to start crafting a way to deal with the tunnel’s lethal dangers by September 2015, but it missed the deadline and promised to do it later this year as part of an overall agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to push back completion of the site’s overall cleanup from 2024 to 2042. (Hanford remains the most toxic site in America and the government’s most costly environmental cleanup task.)

“The Department of Energy has been aware for years that the … tunnels were a risk. They told the other agencies in charge of overseeing Hanford that it wasn’t a risk,” said Dan Serres, conservation director at Columbia Riverkeeper, an advocacy group in Washington state that has a seat on an Energy Department advisory panel about the site. “DOE assured the others that there was no immediate risk of a collapse like the one that happened.”

Asked for comment on the reports, and on the Energy Department’s failure to respond to the warnings, a spokesman in Washington did not respond. [And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Total lack of response. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Government

Trump is evangelicals’ ‘dream president.’ Here’s why.

leave a comment »

Michael Gerson has a good column in the Washington Post:

Even in an era of marriage diversity, it remains the most unlikely match: President Trump and his loyal evangelical base. In the compulsively transgressive, foul-mouthed, loser-disdaining, mammon-worshiping billionaire, conservative Christians “have found their dream president,” according to Jerry Falwell Jr.

It is a miracle, of sorts.

In a recent analysis, the Pew Research Center found that more than three-fourths of white evangelical Christians approve of Trump’s job performance, most of them “strongly.” With these evangelicals comprising about a quarter of the electorate, their support is the life jacket preventing Trump from slipping into unrecoverable political depths.

The essence of Trump’s appeal to conservative Christians can be found in his otherwise anodyne commencement speech at Liberty University. “Being an outsider is fine,” Trump said. “Embrace the label.” And then he promised: “As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith.” Trump presented evangelicals as a group of besieged outsiders, in need of a defender.

This sense of grievance and cultural dispossession — the common ground between The Donald and the faithful — runs deep in evangelical Christian history. . .

Continue reading.

He concludes the column:

. . . In the Trump era, evangelicals have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice for their pains — which is significant. And they have gotten a leader who shows contempt for those who hold them in contempt — which is emotionally satisfying.

The cost? Evangelicals have become loyal to a leader of shockingly low character. They have associated their faith with exclusion and bias. They have become another Washington interest group, striving for advantage rather than seeking the common good. And a movement that should be known for grace is now known for its seething resentments.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 11:38 am

“My Family’s Slave”

leave a comment »

Jason Kottke writes:

When Alex Tizon was a small child in the 60s, he moved with his family from the Phillipines to the US along with the family’s domestic servant, Lola. It was not until Tizon was nearly a teenager that he realized that Lola was not employed as a servant by his parents…she was a slave.

Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine — my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.

An incredible and incredibly disturbing story. Heartbreaking, all the more because this sort of thing is probably more common than anyone realizes.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 11:34 am

%d bloggers like this: