Later On

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

Archive for June 23rd, 2017

“Whom do you believe, Comey or Trump?”

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post on this, with this chart:

I have to admit that using “who” as in the chart title grates on my nerves. It is not rocket science: “who” is for the subject of a sentence, “whom” is used as an object of verb or preposition.

Also read Drum’s post “Liberals and Immigration.”

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 4:36 pm

Comments on the Philando Castile verdict

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Jelani Cobb writes in the New Yorker:

The cycle of lethal police violence, community outrage, and legal proceedings that yield no consequences came around again last Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota. A jury acquitted a police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all three charges—one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm—arising from the shooting death, a year ago, of Philando Castile.
On Tuesday, four days after the verdict, Minnesota state investigators made public the dash-cam video from Yanez’s car. Officer Yanez had said that he saw Castile drive by, thought he resembled a suspect in a robbery case, and decided to pull him over. In the video, the officer can be heard calmly telling Castile that his brake light is broken, and asking to see his license and registration. Castile then says, also calmly, “Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.” Listening to the audio, it seems reasonable to assume that Castile is informing the officer that he has a weapon—for which he turned out to have a valid permit—to avoid trouble rather than to court it. Still, Yanez is prompted to place his hand on his own gun, and shortly afterward he shouts, “Don’t pull it out!” Castile’s actions cannot be seen in the video, but he and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car, along with her four-year-old daughter, tell Yanez that Castile isn’t reaching for his gun; she later says that he was getting his identification from his wallet. Within seconds, the officer fires seven shots into the car. Two of the bullets hit Castile, who is heard to say, “I wasn’t reaching.” He died half an hour later.
That video now serves as a tragic prequel to one that Reynolds live-streamed to Facebook, after the shooting, as she sat next to Castile in the front seat of his car. That video—an unnerving first-person testimony, in which she tells Yanez, with stunning composure, “You killed my boyfriend”—was viewed millions of times, and brought an inescapable notoriety to the case. Reynolds later told reporters that she and Castile had done “nothing but what the police officer asked of us” and added, of Castile, that “nothing within his body language said ‘kill me.’ ”
The decision in the Castile case differed from other, similar cases of police violence in that it highlighted a kind of divided heart of Second Amendment conservatism, at least with regard to race. David French, in National Review, called the decision a miscarriage of justice. He wrote, “Castile was following Yanez’s commands, and it’s simply false that the mere presence of a gun makes the encounter more dangerous for the police. It all depends on who possesses the gun. If he’s a concealed-carry permit-holder, then he’s in one of the most law-abiding demographics in America.” Colion Noir, an African-American gun-rights activist who serves as the face of the N.R.A.’s black-outreach campaign, also criticized the decision, writing in an online post that Yanez’s mistakes cost Castile his life, and that “covert racism is a real thing and is very dangerous.” In the days after the shooting, the N.R.A. itself had offered only a tepid response, without mentioning Castile’s name: “The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.” After Yanez was acquitted, it said nothing at all. Noir, in his post, also questioned whether Yanez would have had the same reaction had a white motorist identified himself as armed. The same might be asked of the N.R.A.’s non-reaction to the verdict.
The Black Lives Matter movement emerged, fundamentally, as a response to the disparate valuation that we place upon human lives. That is why the rejoinder “all lives matter” misses the point. In the hours following last week’s shocking shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and three others, in Alexandria, Virginia, the broad outpouring of concern reminded us of how society responds when people whose lives it values are harmed. In that sentiment, media coverage of the shootings did not automatically focus on controversial statements that Scalise has made or votes he has cast. To do so at such a moment seemed unbefitting.
Responses to the deaths of unarmed victims of police violence, by contrast, routinely feature the victims’ failures, shortcomings, and oversights. We were told, for example, that Eric Garner, who died after police on Staten Island put him in a choke hold, had been arrested on numerous occasions for petty offenses. Representative Peter King, of New York, pointed to the factor of Garner’s physical unfitness. “If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died,” King said. Imperfect victims, as feminists who fought for stronger rape laws a generation ago understood, become perfect excuses in an unequal judicial system.
Yet there was some feeling that the verdict in Philando Castile’s death would be different from the decisions in similar cases that had preceded it. That thought hinged on a belief that his status as a lawfully licensed gun-owner, his long-standing employment as a cafeteria manager at an elementary school, and his general lack of serious missteps might exempt him from the idea that his death was his own fault. And, in fact, less blame was levelled in this case: Castile had been stopped by the police fifty times in the thirteen years before his death, but that record was widely interpreted as evidence of racial profiling rather than of personal culpability.
There was also an evidentiary reason to believe that this case might turn out differently. A second officer, Joseph Kauser, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 3:01 pm

When the man who abuses you is also a cop

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The practice of the Blue Code of Silence, in which cops ignore misconduct by other cops, has high social costs, but it seems to be a permanent fixture of police culture. Melissa Jeltsen and Dana Liebelson write in Huffington Post:

All Sarah Loiselle wanted was a carefree summer. There was no particular reason she was feeling restless, but she’d been single for about a year and her job working with cardiac patients in upstate New York could be intense. So when she learned that a Delaware hospital needed temporary nurses, she leapt at the chance to spend a summer by the beach. In June 2011, the tall, bubbly 32-year-old drove her Jeep into the sleepy coastal town of Lewes. She and her poodle, Aries, moved into a rustic apartment above a curiosity shop that once housed the town jail. The place was so close to the bay that she could go sunbathing on her days off. It didn’t bother Loiselle that she’d be away from her friends and family for a while: She felt like she’d put her real life on hold, that she was blissfully free of all her responsibilities.

And then she met a guy. She’d never dated online before, but an acquaintance convinced her to try a site called PlentyOfFish. Loiselle, who has a slender face framed by auburn hair, soon found herself messaging with 36-year-old Andrel Martinez, a muscular Delaware state trooper. She was intrigued enough to drive an hour with him to Ocean City, Maryland, for what she thought was a great date: They had dinner, strolled along the beach and danced at a waterfront club. Right away she noticed Martinez’s height (he is more than 6 feet tall) and the way he carried himself, with a confidence she would come to associate with cops. Loiselle was hardly a meek person, but his presence made her feel safe. She thought it was it sweet when he reached back through a crowd to take her hand.

They started seeing each other regularly. And as the summer went by, Loiselle began to feel like she could really trust him. One night over dinner, she talked about her family. Loiselle had left home young, after she’d become pregnant at 18. She’d placed her baby up for adoption—but she was proud that she was still in touch with her daughter, whose birthday was tattooed on her hip. That night, Loiselle said, Martinez got choked up and said he loved her and wanted to be with her so they could turn their lives “into something beautiful.” When her contract was up at the end of the summer, Loiselle found a new job and stayed in Delaware.

They moved in together, talked about having a child. But as the months grew colder, doubts crept in. Some of Loiselle’s new friends found Martinez overbearing. Stephanie Botti, whom she met through work, went to a club with the new couple and recalled Martinez “getting all weird about these guys who want nothing to do with us,” inserting himself between them with “aggressive body language.” Loiselle noticed that he seemed to be constantly questioning her or telling her what to do—probably a cop thing, she figured. And she didn’t like it when, she said, Martinez would talk disparagingly about her daughter’s adoption. By the winter, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to break up with him. But she thought it might be a good idea to check out a few apartments, just in case.

She was on her way to look at a place when Martinez called. Loiselle came up with some cover story, but when she got home, she said, his police car was parked in the driveway. That surprised her, because she’d thought he was supposed to be at work. When she walked into the darkened kitchen, she said, she found Martinez standing there, his hands resting on his gun belt. “Where were you?” he asked. Before she could answer, she said, he made a comment about the very building she’d just visited. He said he’d just happened to see her there. That was when she realized that leaving him might be harder than she’d anticipated.

When Loiselle discovered she was pregnant, in January 2012, she decided to try to make the relationship work. But Martinez “had this expectation of the woman of the house,” she said. “He wanted me to be super fun and hot and sexy and meet all of his needs. I was pregnant and felt like crap.” At one point, she said, Martinez gave her a self-help book for police wives. The message seemed pretty obvious to her: She needed to get in line, to be more supportive of her man.

In September they had a daughter, whom we’ll call Jasmine. But after the birth, Loiselle and Martinez fought a lot. Martinez has said that Loiselle would belittle him and call him worthless. Loiselle’s friends, meanwhile, thought he was controlling. She “needed to do what he wanted her to do,” Botti observed. “Otherwise he was going to escalate.” Another friend, Danielle Gilbert, said, “If Sarah was somewhere with me, he would have to know where she was, or if she didn’t tell him, he would find out, which I found really odd. I was like, ‘Does he have somebody spying on you? Is he spying on you?’”

Loiselle was increasingly unnerved by how quickly Martinez could swing from sweet and loving to angry and sullen. On one occasion, she said, he held her down and dug his fingers into her neck to demonstrate pressure points. When she started crying and asked him to stop, he laughed, saying he was just playing around, she recalled. He called her a “motherfucking cunt” or a “bitch,” she said, and would stand and stare at her, using what she called his “interrogation voice.” She believed he knew precisely how much pressure, mental or physical, he needed to exert to make her do exactly what he wanted. And she had a gnawing fear of what might happen if she didn’t comply.

If domestic abuse is one of the most underreported crimes, domestic abuse by police officers is virtually an invisible one. It is frighteningly difficult to track or prevent—and it has escaped America’s most recent awakening to the many ways in which some police misuse their considerable powers. Very few people in the United States understand what really happens when an officer is accused of harassing, stalking, or assaulting a partner. One person who knows more than most is a 62-year-old retired cop named Mark Wynn.

Wynn decided to be a police officer when he was about 5 years old because he wanted to put his stepfather in prison. Alvin Griffin was a violent alcoholic who terrorized Wynn’s mother, a waitress and supermarket butcher. Looking back, Wynn compares his childhood in Dallas to living inside a crime scene. “There was always blood in my house,” he said.

The cops sometimes showed up, usually after a neighbor called to complain about the screaming, but they didn’t do much. Wynn doesn’t remember them ever talking to him or his four siblings. He does remember clinging to his mother while a police officer threatened to arrest her if they had to come back to the house again. “There was no one to help us,” he said. “We were completely isolated.” Wynn has often spoken of the time he tried to kill his stepfather when he was 7—how he and his brother emptied out the Mad Dog wine on Griffin’s bedside dresser and replaced it with Black Flag bug spray. A few hours later, Griffin downed the bottle as the boys waited in the living room. Griffin didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with the wine. But he didn’t die, either.

Years later, when Wynn was around 13 and all but one of his siblings had left home, he was watching television when he heard a loud crack that sounded like a gunshot. He found his mother splayed on the floor of their tiny kitchen, blood pooling around her face. Griffin had knocked her out with a punch to the head. Wynn watched as Griffin stepped over her, opened the fridge, pulled out a can of beer and drank it. That night, Griffin got locked up for public drunkenness and Wynn, his sister and his mother finally got out, driving to Tennessee with a few belongings. Griffin never found them.

Wynn became a police officer in the late 1970s and after a few years, he wound up in Nashville. Then as now, domestic complaints tended to be one of the most common calls fielded by police. And Wynn was disturbed to find that he was expected to handle them in much the same way as the cops from his childhood had—treat it as a family matter, don’t get involved. He remembers that officers would write cursory summaries on 3 by 5 inch “miscellaneous incident” cards rather than full reports. To fit what he regarded as essential details in the tiny space provided, Wynn would print “really, really small,” he said. “The officers I worked with used to get pissed off at me,” he added. They couldn’t understand why he bothered.

But Wynn had entered the force at a pivotal moment. In the late 1970s, women’s groups had turned domestic violence into a major national cause, and abused women successfully sued police departments for failing to protect them. Over the next decade, states passed legislation empowering police to make arrests in domestic incidents and to enforce protective orders. Wynn eagerly embraced these changes and in the late 1980s, the Department of Justice asked him to train police chiefs on best practices. He went on to lead one of the country’s first specialized investigative units for family violence. By the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which poured more than $1 billion into shelters and law enforcement training, the U.S. was finally starting to treat domestic violence as a crime. “It was like stepping out of the Dark Ages,” Wynn said.

And yet when officers themselves were the accused, cases tended to be handled in the old way. Wynn would hear stories around his station, like an assailant who received a quiet talk from a colleague instead of being arrested. “Officers thought they were taking care of their fellow officer,” said David Thomas, a former police officer and a consultant for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). “But what they were doing was colluding with a criminal.”

It is nearly impossible to calculate the frequency of domestic crimes committed by police—not least because victims are often reluctant to seek help from their abuser’s colleagues. Another complication is the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment, a federal law that prohibits anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse from owning a gun. The amendment is a valuable protection for most women. But a police officer who can’t use a gun can’t work—and so reporting him may risk the family’s livelihood as well as the abuser’s anger. . .

Continue reading.


. . . In 1991, a researcher at Arizona State University testified to a congressional committee about a survey she’d conducted of more than 700 police officers. Forty percent admitted that they had “behaved violently against their spouse and children” in the past six months (although the study didn’t define “violence.”) In a 1992 survey of 385 male officers, 28 percent admitted to acts of physical aggression against a spouse in the last year—including pushing, kicking, hitting, strangling and using a knife or gun. Both studies cautioned that the real numbers could be even higher; there has been startlingly little research since.

Even counting arrests of officers for domestic crimes is no simple undertaking, because there are no government statistics. Jonathan Blanks, a Cato Institute researcher who publishes a daily roundup of police misconduct, said that in the thousands of news reports he has compiled, domestic violence is “the most common violent crime for which police officers are arrested.” And yet most of the arrested officers appear to keep their jobs. . .

There’s a lot more. Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 2:25 pm

Trump appointee is a Saudi government lobbyist

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Filling the swamp. Carrie Levine writes at the Center for Public Integrity:

One of President Donald Trump’s newest appointees is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

Since January, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has paid longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt about $430,000 in exchange for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.”

Trump’s decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president’s vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

Trump singled out lobbyists for foreign governments for special criticism, saying they shouldn’t be permitted to contribute to political campaigns. Hohlt is himself a Trump donor, though his contributions came before he registered to represent Saudi Arabia.

“I will issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT! #DrainTheSwamp,” he tweeted in October.

Key advisory body

The commission is essentially a part-time advisory body responsible for making final recommendations to the president of candidates for the prestigious White House fellowships, which President Lyndon B. Johnson created in 1964.

The candidates are usually accomplished professionals with sterling resumes. Fellows are typically given jobs in the White House and federal agencies. Past White House fellows include Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Hohlt said he is one of 19 commissioners who met over a weekend this month to interview the fellowship candidates — the commission’s only formal duty annually.

Hohlt stresses he has never lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Saudi Arabia, which has aggressively courted Trump since he became president in January.

“That is not my role,” Hohlt said.

What role, then, does he play?

According to Hohlt’s disclosures with the Department of Justice, he registered to lobby for Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry in October and “provides them with advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.” He disclosed no direct contacts with government officials on the Saudis’ behalf as of April 30, the date covered by the latest Department of Justice report.

Hohlt said he was largely brought in to offer advice on overarching strategy and how the legislative process works.

He did directly contact some congressional offices in late May and June regarding an arms sale, he said, and those contacts will be disclosed in his next disclosure report, as required. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 2:06 pm

Israel’s Irrational Rationality

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In the NY Review of Books David Shulman reviews several books about the troubled state of Israel:

The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East
by Guy Laron
Yale University Press, 368 pp., $28.00The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine
by Nathan Thrall
Metropolitan, 323 pp., $28.00In Search of Modern Palestinian Nationhood
by Matti Steinberg
Tel Aviv University/Moshe Dayan Center, 503 pp., ₪100.00 (paper

Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation
edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
HarperPerennial, 434 pp., $16.99 (paper)

A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict
by Gershon Shafir
University of California Press, 283 pp., $26.95

This June, Israel is marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War. Some Israelis, including most members of the present government, are celebrating the country’s swift victory over Egypt, Jordan, and Syria as the beginning of the permanent annexation of the entire Palestinian West Bank; others, like me, mourn it as the start of a seemingly inexorable process of moral corruption and decline, the result of the continuing occupation of the West Bank, along with Israel’s now indirect but still-crippling control of Gaza. As it happens, my own life in Israel coincides exactly with the occupation. I arrived from the US in 1967, not as an ideological Zionist but as a young student who had fallen madly in love with the Hebrew language. Sometimes I think it is my passion for the language that has kept me here for five decades, although I would now want to add the strong feeling that it is my fate and my good fortune to be able to fight the good fight.

The country I came to live in fifty years ago was utterly unlike the one I live in today. It was no utopia, but its society was broadly moderate and humane, a mildly Mediterranean version of a modern European social democracy. Despite what some would say, it was not a colonial settlers’ society. There was widespread fear and even hatred of Arabs, including Arab citizens of Israel, but it was nothing like the rampant racism one now hears every day on the radio or TV. Shame, sincere or not, had not yet disappeared from public life.

In those early years, most Israelis regarded the occupied territories—which included the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—not as providing an opportunity for enlarging the boundaries of the state through colonization but as bargaining chips in an eventual and hoped-for peace settlement with the Arabs. There were as yet no Israeli settlements in the territories and hence no fanatical, messianic settlers; the Israeli army could still claim, with some justice, to be an army of defense, not a police force sent to ensure that the project of seizing Palestinian land take place without too much resistance from the local population.

Not surprisingly, a number of new books have appeared in this grim anniversary year, some of which attempt to make sense of how the Israeli state was hijacked by the settlers and how the occupation of most of the territories captured in 1967, not counting Sinai, was made permanent. Those who want to understand the conditions that led to the Six-Day War will find a good account, better than most earlier ones, in Guy Laron’s The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East.

Laron examines the shifting configurations that preceded, and in some ways determined, the outbreak of the war: these included Lyndon Johnson’s stark turn away from John F. Kennedy’s policy of dialogue with and strong economic support for Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt (Nasser had promised Kennedy to keep the Israeli–Arab situation “cool” as the quid pro quo) and Israeli Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin’s increasingly belligerent moves toward Syria. Rabin, according to Laron, wanted to go to war with Syria and took every opportunity to push the Israeli cabinet in this direction in the critical months of spring 1967.

By far the most cogent of the new books, however, is Nathan Thrall’s The Only Language They Understand, which surveys the last five decades and comes to a remarkable conclusion: the only way to produce some kind of movement toward resolving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is to apply significant coercive force to the parties involved, and in particular to Israel.

No amount of coddling and reassuring, no increased bribes in the form of more money or military aid, will have any effect on Israeli policy for the simple reason that Israel considers any sacrifice that would be necessary for peace far worse than maintaining the current situation. As Thrall writes, “no strategy can succeed if it is premised on Israel behaving irrationally.” In this reading of the worldview that has driven all Israeli governments—right, pseudo-left, or center—over these decades, “it makes no sense for Israel to strike a deal today rather than wait to see if…imagined threats,” such as an apartheid state ruling over a Palestinian demographic majority, and thus the end of Israeli democracy, “actually materialize.” The assumption that Israel genuinely wants a peace agreement is simply wrong; the costs of such an agreement are tangible, immediate, and perhaps overwhelming, involving the loss of territory, an end to colonization, and potential political collapse, whereas the costs of maintaining the status quo are for many Israelis, if at times unpleasant, eminently bearable.

I think Thrall has got this right. Endless discussions of why this or that initiative or attempt to mediate failed are shown to be superfluous. We can stop wondering why the whole process of negotiations, beginning in the late 1980s, has remained so barren. Was it because Ehud Barak was not very courteous to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000? Or because Ehud Olmert was burdened by scandal and political crisis when he finally made an offer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008? It has been clear for many years that the very notion of peace negotiations between the two parties has been little more than a device to perpetuate, not to end, the occupation. As Thrall writes:

The United States has consistently sheltered Israel from accountability for its policies in the West Bank by putting up a façade of opposition to settlements that in practice is a bulwark against more significant pressure to dismantle them.

What would make a difference?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Books, Government

Uber being the scum they are: “My Uber driver robbed me, so i took Uber to court and won”

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A very interesting and detailed account of an Uber driver robbing a passenger and Uber doing everything it could to ignore the problem and fight giving any compensation to the victim. Uber really does seem to be a scum company. I don’t know that simply getting Travis Kalanick kicked out as CEO will do any good since (a) he remains on the board and (b) the scum and the scum culture he created seem to be intact. (The firing of the 20 worst will have little effect once the culture’s been established.)

His account begins:

know this is not typical on a business blog, but I want to share what happened to potentially help someone in a similar situation.

If you have followed my twitter account since December, you might know that I was robbed by my Uber driver.  He intentionally drove off with my backpack containing my brand new $2,000 laptop, a bunch of marketing stuff, my medicine, second cell phone, some clothes, and pretty much everything important I owned. Seven months later, the situation has finally been resolved.  I wanted to give everyone on the internet a rundown of what happened so they can hopefully prevent this happening to them, and if so you will know the steps I took to get back what was taken from me (kind of).

Also as this has to do with legal proceedings I tried to be thorough and detailed and the end result is kind of long. :/

To the story!

If you didn’t know, FYM Hot Sauce was the first sponsor for the professional DotA 2 team, “Team NP.”  If you are not familiar with DotA 2, it is a team video game that can be compared to action chess.  DotA 2 has had tournaments since its inception where more than $120,000,000 has been given away in tournament winnings.  Needless to say it is a pretty big deal as many of the players are now millionaires.  Every year there are 3 major tournaments, two smaller ones with a prize pool of $3,000,000, and the championship with a prize pool of over $20,000,000.  When Team NP (who had never qualified for a major tournament) made it to the their first major tournament, held in Boston I decided to go and support them.

The community had really rallied around NP and I wanted to give back to the fans, so why not give away a bunch of hot sauce?  From Portland, Oregon I flew Southwest which allows you 2 free checked bags.  I filled up 2 suitcases with hot sauce to the max of 50 pounds each.  I also filled my backpack with a bunch of sample sauces that I could carry on, as well as other merchandise like hats, stickers, and shirts.  All of this stuff was for giving away to the fans that supported the team.  Without fans, NP would have had one heck of a time getting where they did.

When I landed for my layover in Kansas City I got a call from my father.  He owns an accounting firm, and his internet died.  Before my hot sauce set a record on Kickstarter, I was an IT consultant for small and medium businesses.  I still do work for my father’s office and I do some volunteer IT work for a locaI women’s shelter.  We went through the process of calling Comcast together, and we ended up getting everything up and running again during my two-hour layover.  I was able to use my laptop from my phone hotspot to remote into the servers and make sure everything was hunky-dory before my flight to Boston took off.

My flights were awesome.  No turbulence, and I had a whole row to myself.  I was able to stretch my legs out and watch movies on my phone in comfort.  I thought it was so cool all the space that I had that I took a picture to post on Twitter.  While not a great image, you could definitely see my backpack under the seat.

I landed in Boston around 11 PM EST on Monday, December 5th, 2016, and went to get my checked bags.  Luckily there were no leaking hot sauce bottles.   I went to wikitravel to see the best way of traveling from the airport.  I was warned that cab drivers will frequently rip people off and charge them $50 from the airport, when it should not take more than $20.  I decided to call an Uber from my phone, the first time that I had ever used the service.  While wearing my heavy backpack, I carried my two heavy bags out to the limo pick up area to wait.

When my driver arrived in his hybrid Toyota Camry, I put my two suitcases into his trunk and carried my backpack into the backseat with me.  Since I had a good 20 minutes of driving, I decided to pull out my laptop and make sure that everything was still working at my dad’s office.  I was able to connect to the server and everything seemed to be running smooth.

As we arrived at my AirBNB I slid my laptop back into my bag and looked up instructions on how to check in.  When we pulled up to the location we stopped in the middle of an uphill street, right next to another car.  It was a tight fit getting out of the backseat.   I looked around the unfamiliar street and told the driver that I would unload the suitcases to the curb then I would come back for the backpack in the backseat.

Why did I make that decision?  My bag had about $4,000 worth of stuff in it, and it was heavy.  I don’t know who is walking up and down the streets in Boston in the middle of the night, but I figured that it would be safer in the car with the driver, whom I had all their information in the Uber app.  If someone tried to run off with a bag full of hot sauce in one of my other suitcases it would be awkward and ultimately not a huge deal; it was just hot sauce.  Who knows, maybe that thief would have been a customer one day.  A backpack is easy to grab and run off with while no one is looking.

When I grabbed the suitcases out of the trunk I had to close the door so I could get them past the cars to the curb.  I had to take them to the curb as I was on the aforementioned hill, and with 4 wheels that don’t have locks I have to make sure they were not going to roll away.  There would have been no way to fit through the small opening walking sideways with the backpack on.  I was already shuffling with the heavy suitcases.

As I was bringing the cases to the curb, unknown to me, my driver took off.  I did not hear him take off as his electric car was near silent.  I set my bags to the curb and when I turned around he was gone.

I took a look around and assumed he mistakenly left with my backpack despite me having told him I would be back for it.  This was my first Uber ride, and so I took a minute and tried to figure out how to message the driver to come back.  I had to Google what to do as I am a noobie.  I went to the lost item section in the app and submitted my info, and soon after the automated robot lady called me and told me she would connect me with the driver.  The phone went right to voicemail, so I left a message.  I took my remaining bags into my room then walked downstairs to wait for the driver to return.  After 20 minutes it was clear he wasn’t returning.

I called several more times that night and left several more messages. . .

Continue reading.


They were a company that shows blatant disrespect to authority, operating illegally in cities and using technology to intentionally avoid law enforcement. . . I have no intention of ever using Uber again.  There are many competitors including public transportation, Lyft, Curb, ReachNow, Juno, Via, and the list keeps growing.  I can’t in good faith support a company that has such a blatant disregard for not only its clients, but also its employees.  While I am happy that Uber spawned a revolution in the transportation industry, they have proven themselves to be just as bad if not worse than the companies they sought to replace. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 1:25 pm

The beautiful architecture of libraries

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Here are many. One example:

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life

California invested heavily in solar power. Now there’s so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

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Something’s awry in California, and it seems to be dueling bureaucracies, with some incentivized to push generating electricity from fossil fuels, which is the opposite of what we want. Rather than sell surplus solar-generated electricity, shut down some of the fossil-fuel plants. Ivan Penn reports in the LA Times:

On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.

Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines.

It happened on eight days in January and nine in February as well. All told, those transactions helped save Arizona electricity customers millions of dollars this year, though grid operators declined to say exactly how much.And California also has paid other states to take power.

The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity.

Solar and wind power production was curtailed a relatively small amount — about 3% in the first quarter of 2017 — but that’s more than double the same period last year. And the surge in solar power could push the number even higher in the future.

Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?

The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power.

No single entity is in charge of energy policy in California. This has led to a two-track approach that has created an ever-increasing glut of power and is proving costly for electricity users. Rates have risen faster here than in the rest of the U.S., and Californians now pay about 50% more than the national average.

Perhaps the most glaring example: The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants. [That is insane. – LG]

These conflicting energy agendas have frustrated state Senate Leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who opposes more fossil fuel plants. He has introduced legislation that would require the state to meet its goal of 50% of its electricity from renewable sources five years earlier, by 2025. Even more ambitiously, he recently proposed legislation to require 100% of the state’s power to come from renewable energy sources by 2045.

“I want to make sure we don’t have two different pathways,” de Leon said. Expanding clean energy production and also building natural gas plants, he added, is “a bad investment.”

Environmental groups are even more critical. They contend that building more fossil fuel plants at the same time that solar production is being curtailed shows that utilities — with the support of regulators — are putting higher profits ahead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“California and others have just been getting it wrong,” said Leia Guccione, an expert in renewable energy at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, a clean power advocate. “The way [utilities] earn revenue is building stuff. When they see a need, they are perversely [incentivized] to come up with a solution like a gas plant.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 1:00 pm

The magical feeling of a extremely comfortable and highly efficient razor: How does it do that?

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Although the Yardley shaving soap is decades old, it performs very well, and this morning’s lather with the Plisson was excellent.

The RazoRock Old Type totally removes the stubble without effort—almost absent-mindedly. A BBS result is child’s play for this razor, which feels on the face as though it’s doing nothing, just gliding over your skin picking up lather.

A good splash of Chatillon Lux Champs de Lavande, and the day begins.

A note on the pre-shave beard wash with MR GLO or other high-glycerin soap: I just heard from one shaver who has just splashed water on his stubble before lathering, and in shaving with an iKon 102 he found that the razor was clogging. He did find his lather was too thick and dry, and adding a bit more water helped. But he just recently discovered that his stubble is oily, which contributed to the sticking. When he washed his stubble at the sink with soap, rinsed, and applied lather, the clogging stopped: getting the oil out of his beard made a noticeable difference.

I do emphasize this idea in the Guide, but of course not everyone reads the Guide. I wish they would. It would prevent quite a few shaving problems, IMO.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 8:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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