Later On

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

Archive for September 7th, 2017

Tomi Lahren, Meet The Great Great Grandfather Prosecuted For Forging His Citizenship Papers!

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Jennifer Mendelsohn writes at Wonkette:

An avid genealogist, I have a knack for using the document trail to root out buried family secrets and often help adoptees and others trace their histories. And so it’s with great amusement that I have unpacked the family trees of anti-immigrant right-wing personalities from Rep. Steve “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” King (whose own grandmother arrived in the U.S. as a four-year-old with baby siblings in tow) to Tucker “Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?” Carlson (whose ancestor wrote about how the bleak prospects in his native Switzerland forced him to head for America) to Stephen “We favor immigrants who speak English” Miller (whose great-grandmother most definitely did not speak English, per the census.) It’s a project I have jokingly dubbed #resistancegenealogy.

I was curious how long it would take me to hit an immigrant if I dug into the tree of Tomi Lahren, the platinum blonde, snowflake-hating ultra-conservative firebrand recently hired by Fox News. The answer was “not long,” but I never expected to hit pay dirt quite like I did.

But first, let’s back up. I like to say that following a genealogical trail is a lot like Law and Order. (Stay with me.) You hear the dun dun!, listen for the clues, (“I think she was working in a laundromat on 4th street?”) and then, well, you go to the laundromat on 4th street, for God’s sake. So how do we find out who Tomi’s ancestors were? You follow the dun duns.

Multiple sources identify Tomi’s parents as Kevin and Trudy Lahren of Rapid City, SD, including this Dallas Morning News piece. (While we’re at it, here’s a local newspaper article about the high school work experience that must have helped make Tomi who she is today.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Daily life

Facebook Tells Advertisers It Can Reach Many Young People. Too Many.

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Sapna Maheshwari has an interesting article in the NY Times. The opening sentence:

Facebook faced criticism on Wednesday after an analyst pointed out that the company’s online advertising tools claim they can reach 25 million more young Americans than the United States census says exist. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Business

Religion trends and groupings and political outlook, in good charts

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Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 4:55 pm

What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? Plead Guilty.

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Megan Rose reports at ProPublica:

On Oct. 15, 2008, James Owens shuffled, head high despite his shackles, into a Baltimore courtroom, eager for his new trial to begin. Two decades into a life sentence, he would finally have his chance to prove what he’d been saying all along: The state had the wrong man.

Owens had been convicted of murdering a 24-year-old college student, who was found raped and stabbed in her home. Then he’d been shunted off to state prison until DNA testing — the scientific marvel that he’d watched for years free other men — finally caught up with his case in 2006. The semen that had been found inside the victim wasn’t his. A Maryland court tossed his conviction and granted Owens a rare do-over trial.

State prosecutors balked, insisting they still had enough evidence to keep Owens locked away and vowed to retry him. But they had also offered him an unusual deal. He could guarantee his immediate release from prison with no retrial and no danger of a new conviction — if he’d agree to plead guilty. The deal, known as an Alford plea, came with what seemed like an additional carrot: Despite pleading guilty, the Alford plea would allow Owens to say on the record that he was innocent. The Alford plea was an enticing chance for Owens, by then 43, to move on as a free man. But he’d give up a chance at exoneration. To the world, and legally, he’d still be a killer.

Owens refused the deal. He told his lawyer he wanted to clear his name, and he was willing to take his chances in court and wait in prison however long it took for a new trial to begin. It was a startling choice for an incarcerated defendant — even those with persuasive stories of innocence typically don’t trust the system enough to roll the dice again with 12 jurors or an appellate court. Most defendants, lawyers say, instinctively and rationally, grab any deal they can to win their freedom back.

The decision cost Owens 16 more months behind bars. Then, on that fall day in 2008, when the trial was set to begin, the prosecutor stood and, without a glance at Owens, told the judge, “The state declines to prosecute.”

In a legal gamble in which the prosecution typically holds the winning cards, Owens had called the state’s bluff. He walked out that day exonerated — and with the right to sue the state for the 21 years he spent wrongly imprisoned.

It seemed the ultimate victory in a city like Baltimore, with its deeply rooted and often justified mistrust of police and prosecutors. But Owens wasn’t the only man convicted of murdering that 24-year-old college student. Another white Baltimore man, James Thompson, had also been put away for life. Tests showed that his DNA didn’t match the semen either, but the state’s attorney’s office refused to drop the charges. Instead, as it had with Owens, it offered Thompson an Alford plea. Thompson grabbed the deal and walked out of prison a convicted murderer.

Same crime. Same evidence. Very different endings.

Ever since DNA ushered in a new era in criminal justice, even the toughest law-and-order advocates have come to acknowledge a hard truth: Sometimes innocent people are locked away for crimes they didn’t commit. Less widely understood is just how reluctant the system is to righting those wrongs.

Courts only assess guilt or innocence before a conviction. After that, appellate courts focus solely on fairness. Did everyone follow the rules and live up to their duties? Getting a re-hearing of the facts is a monumental, often decades-long quest through a legal thicket. Most defendants never get to start the process, let alone win. Even newly discovered evidence is not enough in many cases to prompt a review. And, for the tiny percentage of defendants who get one, the prosecutors still have the advantage: They have final discretion about whether to press charges and how severe they’ll be. Powerful influence over the pace of a case, the sentence and bail. And, compared with an incarcerated defendant, vast resources.

No one tracks how often the wrongly convicted are pressured to accept plea deals in lieu of exonerations. But in Baltimore City and County alone — two separate jurisdictions with their own state’s attorneys — ProPublica identified at least 10 cases in the last 19 years in which defendants with viable innocence claims ended up signing Alford pleas or time-served deals. In each case, exculpatory evidence was uncovered, persuasive enough to garner new trials, evidentiary hearings or writs of actual innocence. Prosecutors defend the original convictions, arguing, then and now, that the deals were made for valid reasons — such as the death of a key witness or a victim’s unwillingness to weather a retrial. The current state’s attorney in Baltimore County, Scott Schellenberger, said that “prosecutors take their oath to get it right very seriously” and wouldn’t stand in the way of exoneration if the facts called for it.

The menace of such deals, though, is clear: At worst, innocent people are stigmatized and unable to sue the state for false imprisonment, prosecutors keep unearned wins on their case records and those of the department, and no one re-investigates the crime — the real suspect is never brought to justice.

The plea deals ProPublica examined in Baltimore City involved two prior state’s attorneys. A spokeswoman for Marilyn Mosby, the current chief, didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment or for interviews with prosecutors in those cases. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 3:19 pm

Big batch of chili simmering

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I used the 6-qt pot, with the following recipe as template. Changes were to omit the canned green chilies and the green bell pepper, substituting about 6-7 Hatch chilies, which are now in season.:

Optional: smoked ham shank, cooked overnight
1/4 cup olive oil or bacon grease
3 large onions, chopped – yellow, white, and red
1 Tbsp kosher salt & 1 Tbsp black pepper
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (Hatch chiles instead)
1 large red/yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (Hatch chiles instead)
3 ancho chile peppers, cut into small pieces
[Optional: 3 chipotle chile peppers or 1 small can chipotles in adobo—if the latter add after meat]
1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsp Mexican oregano
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
3-4 lbs boneless chuck roast or pork shoulder
2 Tbsp espresso grind dark roast coffee (the actual grounds – I use Illy)
2-4 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or fish sauce)
2 oz 99% cacao chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger)
1-2 Tbsp liquid smoke
6 or so good-sized tomatillos, chopped
1 28-oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 can original Rotel tomatoes and chilies
1 small jar or can of tomato paste
1 28-oz can whole green chilies (Hatch chiles instead)
juice of 2 lemons or 4 limes

Optionally, put a smoked ham shank in the cast-iron dutch oven, add 1/4 c water, cover, and leave in a 200º oven overnight. The next day, let it cool and pick all the meat off the bones. Could use fat for sautéing onions, but I just added the liquid to the chili.

Put olive oil or bacon grease in 6-qt pot or 4-qt sauté pan. Sauté until the onions are transparent and starting to caramelize, stirring often (about 20 minutes). It’s best to do this in a large-diameter pan.

Add the vegetables and spices, and sauté another 10 minutes or so. The 6-qt pot was full but I did not require moving to 7-qt pot.

Add the meat without browning it—my younger daughter says that the meat is more tender in stews and such if it is cooked without browning, and that sounds good to me. Moreover, this dish does not need the flavoring of the Maillard reaction: there’s plenty of flavor from other sources.

Beef chuck roast works better than pork shoulder: the beef gets very tender, the pork not so much.

Add the remaining ingredients. I use scissors to cut up the whole San Marzano tomatoes after adding them. I recommend getting a large (28-oz) can of whole green chilies or four 7-oz cans of whole green chilies. Canned diced chilies seem to have a short shelf life and turn to liquid when added. The whole chilies are easy to chop because their cutting resistance is low: you can just press the knife through them. In this case, though, I used Hatch chilies.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover (or not), and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve plain or topped with grated cheese or sour cream. Chopped avocado and/or cilantro would also be good, and a squeeze of lime juice would not be amiss.

In the knife skills video, it was recommended to use a serrated knife on foods with a slick tough skin. The tomatillos exactly fit that description, so I tried the serrated knife: perfect! Easy cutting, no slipping.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 3:16 pm

What prompted the EPA to attack an AP reporter over an accurate Harvey story?

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Eric Wemple reports in the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency is all over Michael Biesecker, a reporter for the Associated Press. His reading habits, for instance. “We are able to see who opens our emails,” says an EPA official, referring to press-release blasts sent out by the agency. “Michael very rarely opens a positive story about [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt. He only opens stories where he tries to create problems.”

Scrutiny of Biesecker’s press-release consumption amped up in the summer months, after a significant dustup between the two organizations. In late June, Biesecker reported that Pruitt had “met privately with the chief executive of Dow Chemical shortly before reversing his agency’s push to ban a widely used pesticide after health studies showed it can harm children’s brains, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.”

Except that the private meeting didn’t really happen, though it was indeed listed on a schedule obtained by the AP. Scheduling conflicts prevented it from taking place. The AP ran a correction stating, in part, “A spokeswoman for the EPA says the meeting listed on the schedule was canceled, though Pruitt and [Dow Chemical CEO Andrew] Liveris did have a ‘brief introduction in passing.’”

Along with the correction, the AP ran a new story with more information about the non-meeting: “The EPA did not respond to inquiries about the scheduled meeting before the AP story was published and later did not state on the record that the meeting had been canceled.” (An EPA official protests that, indeed, the agency did respond before the story was published). The New York Times, by the way, made the very same error.

Following that episode, the EPA pulled Biesecker from its master email list. “He’s more than welcome to visit our website,” says an EPA official, noting that there are some 50 AP reporters on the blast list — and Biesecker can get the releases from them. But why de-list the guy? “We don’t think he’s a trustworthy reporter,” says the EPA official.

The evaluation of untrustworthiness, argues the official, stems from the Dow-Pruitt meeting story, plus a previous instance in which Biesecker — along with staffer Adam Kealoha Causey — wrote an article based on emails from Pruitt’s previous work as Oklahoma attorney general. “Newly obtained emails underscore just how closely Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt coordinated with fossil fuel companies while serving as Oklahoma’s state attorney general, a position in which he frequently sued to block federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions,” notes the lead of the piece.

An EPA official cited an editorial in the Oklahoman taking issue with the story. “The fact Pruitt regularly corresponded and dealt with energy industry officials as attorney general of a state where energy is the No. 1 industry should not be surprising nor should it, by itself, be considered nefarious,” wrote the newspaper.

Other alleged Biesecker infractions have also upset the EPA. In June, Biesecker forwarded to the EPA press office a news release from Investigative Reporters and Editors announcing that Pruitt had won the organization’s “Golden Padlock” award “recognizing the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.” Noted the EPA official via email, “this unnecessary email reiterates his dislike for Mr. Pruitt.”

So there was distrust in the water when Biesecker and the AP landed on Hurricane Harvey. A trail of emails shows that the wire service decided early on how it would focus its investigative efforts: Houston has long been a petrochemical hub, with $50 billion in chemical plant construction since 2013. The city’s deep roots in this industry mean that companies have left behind a fair number of messes, some of them qualifying as EPA Superfund sites. A team of AP journalists wanted to know how these sites would fare underwater.

On Aug. 17, more than a week before Harvey’s landfall, the AP requested a copy of EPA’s “screening analysis” involving Superfund sites around floodplains or in danger of sea-level rise. As Harvey later bounced out of Texas and into Louisiana, the AP sprung into action, checking out flooded Superfund sites — by foot and by boat — and pressing the EPA for information. Here’s an Aug. 30 email inquiry obtained by the Erik Wemple Blog: “How many Superfund sites are underwater? Specific locations? What monitoring are state and federal regulators doing this week? Are they visiting sites by boat? Are they sampling floodwater? What specific actions are they taking to potentially mitigate the risk of hazardous materials migrating off site due to flooding?” It continued pressing those issues over the following days.

On Sept. 2, Biesecker and colleague Jason Dearen showed the results of their efforts under the provocative and alarming headline, “AP EXCLUSIVE: Toxic waste sites flooded, EPA not on scene.” In all, the outlet had visited seven Superfund sites in the Houston region. Several hours after the AP issued its story, the EPA responded with a statementindicating that it had seen aerial imagery showing that 13 of 41 sites were flooded and were “experiencing possible damage.” The statement started out by denouncing “misleading and inaccurate reporting” on the topic.

The AP adjusted its article, but not its narrative:

The statement confirmed the AP’s reporting that the EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites, saying the sites had “not been accessible by response personnel.” EPA staff had checked on two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi on Thursday and found no significant damage.

AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site, but accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not respond to questions about why its personnel had not yet been able to do so.

The next day, the EPA did something that federal agencies, as a general proposition, do not do. It put a news release on the EPA websiteblasting not just a news outlet, but a specific reporter. With attitude, too. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 3:09 pm

When Trump Aides Admit He Has No Idea What He’s Talking About

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Benjamin Hart writes in New York magazine:

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that President Trump didn’t appear to grasp the policy specifics of DACA, the executive order his administration was about to unravel:

As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind, according to a person familiar with their thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity without authorization to comment on it.

This sounded familiar.

Sometimes you have to step back and marvel that the president doesn’t know anything about anything – and that he doesn’t care that he doesn’t know. Anonymous aides have been warning us for months that Trump is incurious on matters of policy and process to the point that he makes George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson.

Amid the debate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for example, there was so much reporting about Trump’s slim-to-none grasp of the complexities involved that even he felt the need to correct the record via Twitter:

Reporting from the Daily Beast just slightly undermined his claim of policy mastery:

The president’s close aides and political advisers, six of whom spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, would beg to differ. Some of them simply laughed at the very suggestion that the president knows much, or even cares, about health care policy in this country.

There was the time, sources told the Huffington Post, that Trump couldn’t remember whether a strong dollar or weak dollar was good for the U.S. economy (remember, this is a guy who’s been inveighing against unfair trade deals for decades), so he naturally called… his then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn, in one of the few sounds decisions he made in his brief tenure, told Trump to ask an economist.

Oftentimes, Trump’s cluelessness extends beyond specific policy details into more rudimentary “how does the government work” territory. At the beginning of his term, Trump seemed to believe the president was a dictatorship, and was chastened to find out that it’s not. From Politico in February:

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.

Of course, Trump’s ignorance is hardly limited to the bureaucratic; he often seems not to grasp when he’s putting himself in legal danger, as when he fired James Comey, or when the Washington Post reported in July that Trump had dictated an incoherent statement regarding his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, drawing the ire of an anonymous adviser who just couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 1:58 pm

House Conservatives Demand That Tax Reform Add to the Deficit

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Odd, isn’t it? It’s almost as though they lack consistency and/or rational thinking. Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine:

The House Freedom Caucus believes that the national debt poses such a profound threat to our grandchildren’s prosperity, true conservatives must threaten to sabotage the economy unless Congress agrees to pass draconian spending cuts.

They also believe that the corporate tax rate should be cut from 35 percent to 16 percent — and that true conservatives must resist any attempt to offset the (roughly) $2 trillion revenue loss that this would generate by closing loopholes in the tax code.

On Wednesday night, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that the 35 Über-reactionary House members are preparing to release their own tax plan, much to the chagrin of their party’s leadership. The exact details of that plan have yet to be hammered out, but Swan’s sources outline its core features:

• Slashes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 16%.

• Doubles the standard deduction for individuals.

• Abandons “revenue neutrality,” the dogma that tax reform mustn’t worsen currently projected deficits.

It’s worth noting that even Republicans who endorse “revenue neutrality” generally use “dynamic scoring” to get there — which is to say, they presume that tax cuts for the rich are partially offset by generating higher economic growth. The Freedom Caucus position isn’t that giant tax cuts don’t add to the deficit, but that growing the deficit is perfectly fine, so long as the national “credit card” is being used to redistribute wealth to the rich, and not to the poor.

To be fair, the conservatives will, ostensibly, call for offsetting the cost of their tax cuts by soaking the latter. Members of the Freedom Caucus have, historically, reconciled the tension between their deficit-hawkery and support for giant tax cuts by insisting on commensurate reductions in social spending. And according to Swan, their proposal will include “some form of ‘welfare reform.’”

But conservatives have consistently failed to pass “welfare reforms” draconian enough to close the current deficit. The fact that they are willing to grow that deficit by more than $2 trillion over ten years, amid decades of evidence that their movement lacks both the influence necessary to roll back Social Security and Medicare and the will to cut defense spending — suggests that these tea-partyers don’t actually believe that the debt poses a catastrophic threat to their progeny, or else they love income inequality more than their grandkids. One could argue that these conservatives believe cutting taxes actually helps reduce the deficit in the long term, because “starving the beast” is the only politically feasible way of rolling back entitlement spending. But we now have decades of evidence to suggest this isn’t the case — the Bush and Reagan tax cuts did not produce an outpouring of popular support for cutting Social Security. In fact, cutting taxes actually seems to increase public support for the social safety net, since doing so makes government programs seem like a better deal. So, the cause for doubting the sincerity of the Freedom Caucus’s deficit scaremongering remains the same: They are blithe about increasing the national debt through tax cuts, even though they have no basis for thinking that they can subsequently offset lost revenue through massive cuts in social spending.

The only alternative explanation is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rule Fight Forces Senators to Choose: Military Families or Big Banks

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Paul Bland writes in Huffington Post:

When Gary Childress of Raleigh, North Carolina learned in July 2008 that he was being deployed to Iraq as part of his Army National Guard service, one of the things he did before reporting for duty was to contact Bank of America, where he and his wife Anne had a credit card account. He wanted to let the bank know that he was on active-duty status because under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA, a law passed by Congress in 2003 to reduce burdens on military families, all interest rates on debts that servicemembers owed before going on active status must be reduced to 6%. This interest rate protection was significant to the Childresses, who owed over $5000 on their Bank of America credit card with an interest rate of around 27% when Gary left for Iraq.

Bank of America began sending Anne Childress monthly statements suggesting that the interest rate on the account had been reduced to 6% as the SCRA requires. But according to a lawsuit the bank just settled in federal court in North Carolina, these statements were deceptive. In fact, the bank was actually continuing to charge a much higher interest rate. And the Childresses were not alone; the bank’s own internal audits, as well as an investigation conducted by the Office Of the Comptroller of the Currency, revealed that nearly 130,000 servicemembers and their families were affected by Bank of America’s illegal and deceptive practices, which went on for over a decade.

One of the other families affected was Jackie and Raymond Love of Garrett, Indiana, who had a mortgage with Bank of America with an interest rate of 7% when Raymond was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Like the Childresses, the Loves asked Bank of America to reduce their monthly payments to 6% in accordance with the SCRA, and Bank of America began issuing monthly statements suggesting that it had complied, but later investigations showed that the Loves’ mortgage rate was not in fact reduced. What’s worse, the formula Bank of America used to make it appear that the Loves’ rate had been reduced to 6%, known as interest subsidization, caused the Loves’ mortgage payments to be recorded as late even when they paid on time, which in turn damaged their credit score. The Loves filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and their house was sold at auction.

In 2015, the Childresses and others fiiled a class action lawsuit. And in July of 2017, they reached a settlement with Bank of America that will award nearly $30 million, after fees and expenses, to the approximately 130,000 military families who were overcharged and deceived by the bank. The cheated servicemembers will not need to file claims in order to receive compensation under the settlement; the amount owed to each class member will be calculated based on Bank of America’s records, and checks will be sent out automatically. If any class members can’t be found or their checks go uncashed, the remaining funds will be donated to nonprofits that provide assistance to servicemebers and veterans.

This class action lawsuit was possible because Bank of America does not force its credit card customers to enter into arbitration provisions that ban class actions. But most banks do. In fact, in a comprehensive report to Congress in 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that over half of credit card contracts include provisions requiring customers to settle disputes in private arbitration rather than in court, and nearly all of those provisions ban class actions. Moreover, the CFPB’s study found that large banks were far more likely than small banks and credit unions to include forced arbitration provisions and class action bans in their account agreements. The CFPB study found that where bank arbitration clauses ban class actions, only an infinitesimal number of consumers ever go to arbitration; more than 99.9% of cases just disappear and no consumers receive anything.

So if another large bank systematically overcharged servicemembers interest in violation of the SCRA and lied about it like Bank of America did, those affected would not have been able to join together in a class action lawsuit like the Childresses and Loves. Instead, they would each be forced to go up against the bank by themselves in a secretive arbitration proceeding, where confidentiality rules would prevent each servicemember from sharing information with others. Given the many demands on military families’ time, most people affected by such a scheme would never even find out that their rights had been violated, let alone pursue in arbitration the money they were owed. And instead of paying nearly $30 million to around 130,000 military families as Bank of America did, a bank with an arbitration provision banning class actions would have paid nothing, or at most might only have to pay out a few thousand dollars to a handful of servicemembers if any went forward with arbitration.

Now, the Senate will soon be asked to decide whether it is better if Americans can enforce consumer protection laws, as the servicemembers in these cases did, or if it’s better to let banks pocket millions of dollars in illegal profits at the expense of those who defend our nation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 1:40 pm

The Opening Lines of Romeo and Juliet Recited in the Original Accent of Shakespeare’s Time

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Lori Dorn has a fascinating post at Laughing Squid, which begins with this brief video:

The post mentions:

British actor and voice artist Ben Crystal recited the opening lines from Romeo and Juliet in what is believed to be Shakespeare’s original accent to a group of students attending a seminar through the British Council English and Exams. In doing so, Crystal also explained the importance of knowing this accent, how he produced the accent, why his voice got deeper during the recitation and how the accent made its way around the world.

Wherever I go whatever age whether it’s eight years old or 80 years old and I say what accent does that remind you of and someone goes ‘Pirates of the Caribbean”… Shakespeare’s London was a melting pot of accents people would come from Norwich and Wales and Scotland and Ireland and Midlands and Somerset and pirate country and they come to London and their accents would all mix in together and then of course later on they’d go to Bristol and sail across to America and later still they’d be sent to Bristol and go down to Australia and that’s in part where those accents all come from.

At the link there’s a video of Crystal giving an extended talk, including some performances with other actors—worth watching.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education, Video

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What To Make of the New Facebook-Russia Revelation?

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Josh Marshall has an intriguing column on the TPM Editor’s Blog. From the column:

. . . What is highly interesting to me is the reference to the ‘Internet Research Agency’, which is either a Russian intelligence front or the work of a Putin-aligned oligarch who does work on behalf of Putin and the Russian state. That’s the Russian company apparently doing the buying and then pumping up those ads with its army of trolls and fake accounts. This is the St. Petersburg ‘troll farm’ that Adrian Chen chronicled in that seminal 2015 New York Times Magazine that I’ve referenced numerous times.

I’ve always been a huge admirer of Chen’s since way back when he was at Gawker. Mainly he’s just a good writer and reporter. But his stories were usually ones that you’d never think were stories. You wouldn’t think the subject matter even existed (or wished it didn’t) or if they did that they were worthy of being stories. They were outlandish, bizarre, sometimes grotesque. But either at the time of publication or sometimes months or years later you’d realize they weren’t examples of random exoticism but actually topics of great significance operating outside of mainstream public view.

When I first read the 2015 troll farm piece I was amazed. The whole idea sounded preposterous and unreal. Some major operation in Russia – either informally or formally tied to the state – was investing lots of time and money building networks of bots and propaganda accounts to disrupt conversations, build counter-narratives and even test fire elaborate and potentially lethal hoaxes in the United States. Many of us have long known that teenagers with personality problems and sociopaths do this stuff. But this was an operation at scale, sophisticated and state-backed. What was it for and what was the end game? (Here are two posts from last year where I try to answer that question: one and two.)

In any case, some time after the troll farm piece ran, Chen noticed that a number of the accounts he had identified spreading conspiracy theories about Ebola or other fake stories had rebranded as Trump/MAGA accounts. It’s quite fascinating. The Trump revelation comes in a December 2015 podcast interview Chen at He clearly didn’t think that much of it at the time. It comes up sort of parenthetically at about 35:12 into the podcast. But there it is: perhaps the political scandal of the early 21st century, months before anyone had any inkling of it, briefly sketched in its outlines. The momentary exchange still amazes me. Here it is.

Chen said: “A lot of them have turned into like conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on but they’re all like tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.” Interviewer: “Who’s paying for that?” Chen: “I don’t know … I feel like maybe it’s some kind of really opaque strategy of like electing Donald Trump to undermine the US or something.” . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 11:30 am

Wee Scot and Phoenix Artisan Solstice, with the Fatip Testina Gentile

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I am noticing that I get exceptional lathers from my Phoenix Artisan (and Crown King) shaving soaps: fragrance, effect on skin, and thickness. This morning was more of the same: a really fine fragrance and a lather that was wonderfully cream-thick. Some of this may due to my pre-Vulfix Wee Scot, but most seems due to the soap.

The Fatip Testina Gentile continues to astonish with its great comfort and efficiency: three passes to perfection.

A splash of Phoenix Artisan Solstice (after giving the bottle a good shake) finished the shave on a great note. This particular fragrance is one of my favorites, and I’ve not run across anything like it.

Late start, and soon we’ll be into the move and the blog will be interrupted for a while. We’ll see how it goes.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2017 at 11:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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