Later On

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Archive for July 13th, 2017

Why are companies trying to make it illegal to repair their products?

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We’re moving away from ownership of things to renting of things—for example, you don’t own the software you buy, you just have a license to use it. And it gets worse as Sara Behdad describes in Quartz:

Traditionally, when a car breaks down, the solution has been to fix it. Repair manuals, knowledgeable mechanics, and auto parts stores make car repairs common, quick, and relatively inexpensive. Even with modern computer-equipped vehicles, regular people have plenty they can do: change oil, change tires, and many more advanced upgrades.

But when a computer or smartphone breaks, it’s hard to get it fixed, and much more common to throw the broken device away. Even small electronic devices can add up to massive amounts of electronic waste—between 20 million and 50 million tonnes (22-55 million tons) of electronic devices every year, worldwide. Some of this waste is recycled, but most—including components involving lead and mercury—goes into landfills.

Bigger equipment can be just as difficult to repair. Today’s farmers often can’t fix the computers running their tractors, because manufacturers claim that farmers don’t actually own them. Companies argue that specialized software running tractors and other machines is protected by copyright and patent laws, and allowing farmers access to it would harm the companies’ intellectual property rights.

Users’ right to repair—or to pay others to fix—objects they own is in jeopardy. However, in our surveys and examinations of product life cycles, my colleagues and I are finding that supporting people who want to repair and reuse their broken devices can yield benefits—including profits—for electronics manufacturers.

A corporate quandary

At least eight states—Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Tennessee—are considering laws that would require companies to let customers fix their broken electronics. The proposals typically make manufacturers sell parts, publish repair manuals, and make available diagnostic tools, such as scanning devices that identify sources of malfunctions. In an encouraging move, the US Copyright Office suggested in June that similar rules should apply nationwide. And the US Supreme Court recently ruled that companies’ patent rights don’t prevent people from reselling their electronics privately.

Seen one way, these regulations put manufacturing companies in a tough spot. Manufacturers can earn a lot of money from selling authorized parts and service. Yet to remain competitive, they must constantly innovate and develop new products. To keep costs down, they can’t keep making and stocking parts for old and outdated devices forever. This leads to what’s called “planned obsolescence,” the principle that a company designs its items to have relatively short useful lives, which will end roughly around the time a new version of the product comes out.

However, our research suggests that companies can take a different approach—designing and building products that can be refurbished and repaired for reuse—while building customer loyalty and brand awareness. By analyzing surveys of hobbyists and the repair industry, we’ve also found that there are barriers, such as a lack of repair manuals and spare parts, that impede the growth of the repair industry that can be improved upon.

Consumers want to fix their devices

Even as machines and devices have become less mechanical and more electronic, we have found that customers still expect to be able to repair and continue using electronic products they purchase. When manufacturers support that expectation, by offering repair manuals, spare parts, and other guidance on how to fix their products, they build customer loyalty.

Specifically, we found that customers are more likely to buy additional products from that manufacturer, and are more likely to recommend that manufacturer’s product to friends. The math here is simple: More customers using a company’s products, whether brand-new or still kicking after many years, equals more money for the business. . .

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Typical thinking in the modern corporation: don’t consider the long view, go for the short-term gain.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 3:39 pm

Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz Threatens Stranger in Emails: ‘Watch Your Back , Bitch’

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Wow. Read this report by Justin Elliott in ProPublica. It begins:

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”

In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Kasowitz’s spokesman, Michael Sitrick, said Thursday he couldn’t immediately reach Kasowitz for comment.

ProPublica confirmed the man’s phone number matched his stated identity. Technical details in the emails, such as IP addresses and names of intermediate mail servers, also show the emails came from Kasowitz’s firm. In one email, Kasowitz gave the man a cell phone number that is not widely available. We confirmed Kasowitz uses that number.

The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material.

Experts said Kasowitz could have trouble getting a security clearance because of what multiple sources described as a recent history of alcohol abuse. Former employees also said Kasowitz had engaged in behavior that made them uncomfortable.

Since the story was published, his spokesman  . . .

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I see that Trump and his lawyer are equally classy.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 2:57 pm

Donald Trump is wrong. When Democrats were offered secret help by the Soviets, they refused.

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Richard Moss corrects the record in the Washington Post:

Yesterday, President Trump suggested in a Reuters interview that there wasn’t anything surprising or wrong about his son’s enthusiasm for learning secrets that he had been told were part of a Russian effort to help Trump’s presidential campaign. He said:

I think many people would have held that meeting. … Most of the phony politicians who are Democrats who I watched over the last couple of days — most of those phonies that act holier-than-thou, if the same thing happened to them, they would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat.

Trump is right that foreign powers have tried to influence U.S. politicians in the past. Foreign powers have many ways to exercise influence in representative democracies. Some of these may be public, and others surreptitious. 2016 certainly wasn’t the first time the Kremlin tried to influence a U.S. election, and Moscow is by no means alone in attempting to sway U.S. politics. However, these efforts have worked in complicated ways, and American politicians have not been as quick to accept their help as Trump suggests.

Russia tried – and failed – to support the Democrats in 1968

In 1968, Moscow feared that the staunchly anti-communist Richard M. Nixon would be elected. To forestall that, the Kremlin decided to reach out to Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey. As Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, revealed in his memoir, “In Confidence,” two decades ago: “The top Soviet leaders took an extraordinary step, unprecedented in the history of Soviet-American relations, by secretly offering Humphrey any conceivable help in his election campaign — including financial aid.” Dobrynin explained:

I received a top-secret instruction to that effect from [Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei] Gromyko personally and did my utmost to dissuade him from embarking on such a dangerous venture, which if discovered certainly would have backfired and ensured Humphrey’s defeat, to say nothing of the real trouble it would have caused for Soviet-American relations. Gromyko answered laconically, “There is a decision, you carry it out.”

The opportunity soon arose for the well-connected ambassador at a breakfast at Humphrey’s home. Dobrynin subtly raised the issue of Humphrey’s campaign finances during a discussion of the election, but the vice president deflected the issue. “Humphrey, I must say,” Dobrynin wrote, “was not only a very intelligent but also a very clever man. He knew at once what was going on.” Humphrey told Dobrynin that “it was more than enough for him to have Moscow’s good wishes which he highly appreciated.” Dobrynin felt relieved that he had followed his orders and Humphrey had avoided the potentially explosive issue.

Humphrey did not mention the Soviet election outreach or even Dobrynin in his 1991 memoir, “The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics.”

Russia had tried to hurt Nixon’s chances in 1960

Russian worries about Nixon’s anti-communism did not begin in 1968. At their first face-to-face meeting in Vienna, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev “joked” with the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, that the Soviet Union “had cast the deciding ballot in [Kennedy’s] election to the Presidency over that son-of-a-bitch Richard Nixon,” in 1960. When Kennedy asked for clarification, Khrushchev explained that he had waited until after the U.S. election to release Francis Gary Powers, a U-2 spy-plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960, to undercut Nixon’s claim that he could work with the Soviets.

Khrushchev may have conflated Powers’s release — which didn’t happen until 1962 — with two American survivors of an RB-47H spy plane that was shot down in July 1960. Both Nixon and Kennedy had called upon the Soviet Union to release the American pilots. Nevertheless, as Adam Taylor previously wrote in The Washington Post:

Noting that the two candidates were at a “stalemate,” Khrushchev recalled saying that if Powers or the other Americans were released before the election, it could give Nixon a boost. It would be better to wait until after the election, the Soviet premier thought.

“My comrades agreed, and we did not release Powers,” he wrote. “As it turned out, we’d done the right thing. Kennedy won the election by a majority of only 200,000 or so votes, a negligible margin if you consider the huge population of the United States. The slightest nudge either way would have been decisive.”

Even 57 years later, the consequences of Khrushchev’s actions remain difficult to assess. However, the Soviet Union’s activities apparently were indirect, and did not involve any quid-pro-quo.

China possibly tried to influence U.S. politics in 1996

Moscow isn’t the only foreign power that has probably tried to influence U.S. politics. The “China Lobby” — the efforts of the Republic of China (Taiwan) under the Kuomintang — has been well-documented (for example) as soliciting political, economic and military support from the 1940s to the 1970s for Chiang Kai-shek and Taiwan in opposition to Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China. In addition to

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 1:48 pm

Trump speaks to White House reporters off the record, then wonders why it wasn’t published

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President Trump seems to have a thinking problem. Eric Wemple writes in the Washington Post:

Word came down from White House reporters that President Trump hung out with reporters for more than an hour as Air Force One flew to Paris for a Bastille Day celebration.

Off-the-record conversation with Trump, huh? Somehow the president greenlighted an on-the-record chat this week with Pat Robertson, he of “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person,” Trump told Robertson as part of an explanation as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin would have preferred to have Hillary Clinton in the White House. And Trump also made some on-the-record time for Reuters.

Switching to an off-the-record footing on an Air Force One flight doesn’t distance Trump from predecessors. President Barack Obama did the same thing. And an aide to President Bill Clinton stipulated that one of his Air Force One bull sessions with journalists proceed on “psych-background.” Trump will take some questions from the media during an appearance with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Yet there can be no equivalence here. Trump has gone four months without a formal solo news conference, while dispersing thoughts about the “fake news” media being the “enemy” of the people; his aides have crippled the White House press briefing by banning cameras and prohibiting real-time audio; he and his people continue attempting to discredit the news media, yet love to cite it when the news is good; and Republican operatives are reportedly contemplating another level of anti-media operations.

So why would Trump while away 70 minutes with this hateful crowd? Because, in the words of a former tabloid reporter who covered Trump, chatting with media types “offer[s] so many opportunities for him to gaze at the person he loves most.”

And it appears that Trump enjoyed his own remarks enough to wonder why they weren’t being published. A pool report from Maggie Haberman of the New York Times — who is writing pool reports on Trump’s France visit — raises the question as to whether this is the first time in U.S. history that a president has sought to move off-the-record remarks to an on-the-record basis: “POTUS asked your pooler why she didn’t use what he has said last night. Your pooler reminded him last night was off the record. POTUS asked if I had heard him say it could be on-record; your pooler replied truthfully no (co-poolers also were not under impression it was on-record, since Sarah Sanders had declared it off record).”

Update: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells the Erik Wemple Blog via email: “The conversation was off the record but we are going to put out excerpts of the conversation.” That’s a strange pledge. Did the White House record the off-the-record session? Isn’t it the job of journalists to publish the interview? And how will the journalists agree to publish only excerpts? That would appear to resemble the much-dreaded practice of quote approval.

We have a president whose relationship to reality is strained.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 11:59 am

Strop Shoppe’s Black Tie and the RazoRock Old Type

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The Plisson brush easily made a fine lather. I really am sorry that Strop Shoppe is no more. With the redoubtable RazoRock Old Type, three passes left a BBS result with no problems. A splash of Speick, and the day is launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2017 at 9:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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