Later On

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

Archive for September 2018

Jennifer Rubin is on a roll

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2018 at 6:21 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill requiring California corporate boards to include women

leave a comment »

Good news. (In the same vein, I support laws requiring people to wear seatbelts in autos.) Sometimes the government must give a push. Automobile safety features that demonstrably save lives had to be legislated in, feature by feature. No automobile company would include a safety feature until and unless it was required by law. So the law definitely must nudge things along.

Patrick McGreevy reports in the LA Times:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed a bill into law that makes California the first state to require corporate boards of directors to include women, saying that despite potentially “fatal” legal problems in the measure, it is time to force action.

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Brown wrote in a signing message.

The new law requires publicly traded corporations headquartered in California to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019 as part of an effort to close the gender gap in business.

By the end of July 2021, a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five members, and there must be at least three women on boards with six or more members. Companies that fail to comply face fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation.

Business groups have questioned the legality of a state imposing such requirements on corporations, many of which are incorporated in other states. But Brown was not persuaded by the opposition.

He copied his signing letter to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which has advanced Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate despite testimony by a woman who said he groped her when they were in high school.

“There have been numerous objections to this bill, and serious legal concerns have been raised,” Brown said. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

The new law may, in fact, be vulnerable to a court challenge, said Jessica Levinson, a clinical professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed a bill into law that makes California the first state to require corporate boards of directors to include women, saying that despite potentially “fatal” legal problems in the measure, it is time to force action.

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Brown wrote in a signing message.

The new law requires publicly traded corporations headquartered in California to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019 as part of an effort to close the gender gap in business.

By the end of July 2021, a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five members, and there must be at least three women on boards with six or more members. Companies that fail to comply face fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation.

Business groups have questioned the legality of a state imposing such requirements on corporations, many of which are incorporated in other states. But Brown was not persuaded by the opposition.

He copied his signing letter to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which has advanced Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate despite testimony by a woman who said he groped her when they were in high school.

“There have been numerous objections to this bill, and serious legal concerns have been raised,” Brown said. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

The new law may, in fact, be vulnerable to a court challenge, said Jessica Levinson, a clinical professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2018 at 4:28 pm

How we know Kavanaugh is lying

leave a comment »

Nathan Robinson writes in Current Affairs:

On Thursday morning, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford detailed under oath her claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attacked her and sexually violated her when he was 17. On Thursday afternoon, Kavanaugh went before the committee to defend himself from the charge, emotionally—sometimes angrily—claiming that he was an innocent man being persecuted by Democrats, that his hearings had become a “national disgrace” that had “destroyed my family and my good name.”

The two witnesses, Ford and Kavanaugh, were both steadfast in their stories. The hearing did not offer any obvious moments that would decimate either party’s claims. Some viewers may have left not knowing what to believe: Ford was clear and responsive. Kavanaugh was irate and at times teary, but emotional denials are what we might expect from an innocent person who was wrongly accused. Predictably, people broadly on the left found Ford’s testimony compelling, while people broadly on the right… well, here are the headlines from the National Review’s homepage today:

(This is a partial selection.)

The allegations against Kavanaugh so infuriated Lindsey Graham that during the hearings he lapsed into what I think can only objectively be described as a sputtering fit of rage. “I hope the American people can see through this sham.. This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap… If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”

Some concluded that they didn’t know what to conclude. Noah Rothman of Commentary said that “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s pain was real and searing” and “the line of questioning pursued by a criminal prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans failed to effectively undermine her credibility” but that Kavanaugh “argued forcefully that the condemnation of him and his family over a rumor with no contemporary corroborating evidence in its favor would be a monumental injustice, and he’s correct.” The hearing, Rothman said, resolved nothing about the facts.

Let’s leave aside the procedural questions about if and how an investigation should proceed. Given what we know now, after the hearings, what can we conclude for certain? Let’s just say we do not know whether to believe Ford or Kavanaugh, that we found both of their testimonies equally likely to be true. In a state of uncertainty, we’d be left with a tricky situation. The truth or falsity of the allegation against Kavanaugh is extremely important; if it’s true, not only did he attack a woman three decades ago, but he lied shamelessly about it under oath, forcing Ford through a humiliating public process that led to her receiving death threats. If what Ford says is true, then not only should Brett Kavanaugh not be confirmed to the Supreme Court, but he should be impeached and removed from the federal judiciary entirely, disbarred, and prosecuted for perjury.

The stakes here are high: If Kavanaugh did it and is confirmed, then a sexual assailant and sociopathic liar will be given one of the most powerful offices in the country (wouldn’t be the first time). If he didn’t do it, then his indignation and disgust is justified. Republicans have argued that Ford’s allegation is completely unproven, uncorroborated, and totally inconsistent with known facts, and that presenting it to the country represents an abandonment of the “presumption of innocence” (which it is refreshing to hear them care about).

What is the best way, then, to figure out the truth? It’s absolutely the case that Christine Ford has no eyewitnesses to support her. She cannot remember exactly where the assault happened, or exactly when. She can’t remember all the people who were at the house, and the people she does say were there have said they have no memory of the event. She told nobody about it at the time. Looking at these facts, we can see how someone strongly committed to due process might think the allegation extremely weak. (Just for the moment, let’s leave aside the two other serious sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.)

However, while these aspects of Ford’s allegation might lead us to demand more proof, they in no way make it inconceivable. In fact, they’re exactly what we might expect if the allegation were true. A girl attacked by two jocks at a party may not tell anybody, precisely because she knows there are no eyewitnesses, they’d back each other up, and even if there had been physical evidence they could never be convicted of anything. It’s not surprising that attendees other than Ford don’t remember this gathering; she says it was small and informal, and remembering who was at every small and informal gathering you were ever at in high school three decades ago is impossible.Ford (and the alleged perpetrators) is the only one it was a significant night for. So the lack of corroboration doesn’t itself make the allegation dubious, and if we demand eyewitnesses before believing victims, most of the time someone who did this would get away with it, because most of the time people are sexually violated in private. Of course there is a serious risk to the “believe all accusers” approach—it leads to wrongful convictions. But there is also a risk to a “never believe an uncorroborated charge” approach—it means that you can attack someone if you’re alone with them, and as long as you leave no marks, you’ll get away with it forever.

If we are taking an uncorroborated claim seriously, though, what does that mean for standards of proof? Much later in life, Ford told her therapist and husband, but at the end of the day we only have her word. If we were to base his guilt on her word alone, then wouldn’t people be able to make any kind of false allegation they liked?

Not quite. The existence of a “he said, she said” does not mean it’s impossible to figure out the truth. It means we have to examine what he said, and what she said, as closely as possible. If both parties speak with passion and clarity, but one of them says many inconsistent, evasive, irrational, and false things, while the other does not, then we actually have a very good indicator of which party is telling the truth. If a man claims to be innocent, but does things—like carefully manipulate words to avoid giving clear answers, or lie about the evidence—that you probably wouldn’t do if you were innocent, then testimony alone can substantially change our confidence in who to believe.

In this case, when we examine the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford honestly, impartially, and carefully, it is impossible to escape the following conclusions:

  1. Brett Kavanaugh is lying.
  2. There is no good reason to believe that Christine Blasey Ford is lying. This does not mean that she is definitely telling the truth, but that there is nothing in what Kavanaugh said that in any way discredits her account.

I want to show you, clearly and definitively, how Brett Kavanaugh has lied to you and lied to the Senate. I cannot prove that he committed sexual assault when he was 17, and I hesitate to draw conclusions about what happened for a few minutes in a house in Maryland in the summer of 1982. But I can prove quite easily that Kavanaugh’s teary-eyed “good, innocent man indignant at being wrongfully accused” schtick was a facade. What may have looked like a strong defense was in fact a very, very weak and implausible one.

Let’s begin with Kavanaugh’s denial.

Here is what he says: “I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation.”

And here is the gathering as Ford describes it:

After a day of diving at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember specifically being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I also remember my friend Leland attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur-of-the-moment gathering… People were drinking beer in a small living room/family room-type area on the first floor of the house.

Kavanaugh says that he never attended any event like this. Like what, though? He never attended a small gathering in Bethesda where people were drinking beer? Kavanaugh submitted his own calendars from the summer of 1982 into evidence for the Senate. As he said himself, “the calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers.” He says that he never attended a gathering like this, but that’s obviously false, because the type of gathering he says he did attend is exactly the kind she describes.

Coverage of Ford’s allegations has often implied that the “party” at which she alleges she was assaulted was a kind of large Bacchanalian house party. This is a crucial part of Kavanaugh’s “calendar” defense: If there had been a big party, lots of people would have been there, it would probably have been on his summer calendar under “PAR-TAY!” It would have been notable, and since nobody seems to remember it and he even wrote far less significant events on his calendar, Ford must be misremembering.

But Ford has been clear: She is not talking about a big event. She is talking about a few friends and acquaintances hanging around drinking some beer in a living room:

It was not really a party like the news has made it sound. It was not. It was just a gathering that I assumed was going to lead to a party later on that those boys would attend, because they tended to have parties later at night than I was allowed to stay out. So it was kind of a pre-gathering.

It’s impossible to believe Kavanaugh when he says he never attended any event “like the one Dr. Ford describes.” It was a very typical low-key high school event, and it would have been shocking if Kavanaugh never attended such a thing. Indeed, he admits it himself.

Okay, so this was a weird lie to tell, because everyone goes to these sorts of events and he had them on his own calendar. But okay, maybe you think that he wasn’t trying to subtly reinforce the impression that Ford was alleging some kind of noteworthy event. Maybe you think he just meant “I never went to this kind of small gathering with the people Ford says.” Indeed, Kavanaugh says:

[N]one of those gatherings included the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified. And as my calendars show, I was very precise about listing who was there; very precise.

Well it’s hard to misinterpret that. He was very precise. Who, then, is the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified? From her testimony: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2018 at 9:19 am

Hundreds of Migrant Children Quietly Moved to a Tent Camp on the Texas Border

leave a comment »

The Trump administration has decided it can do what it wants with migrant children so long as it conceals its actions. This is the American government today. Caitlin Dickerson reports in the NY Times:

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in South Texas.

Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.

But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.

These midnight voyages are playing out across the country, as the federal government struggles to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children — the largest population ever — whose numbers have increased more than fivefold since last year.

The average length of time that migrant children spend in custody has nearly doubled over the same period, from 34 days to 59, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees their care.

To deal with the surging shelter populations, which have hovered near 90 percent of capacity since May, a mass reshuffling is underway and shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of children are being shipped from shelters to South Texas each week, totaling more than 1,600 so far.

The camp in Tornillo operates like a small, pop-up city, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border, complete with portable toilets. Air-conditioned tents that vary in size are used for housing, recreation and medical care. Originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, it expanded in September to be able to house 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.

“It is common to use influx shelters as done on military bases in the past, and the intent is to use these temporary facilities only as long as needed,” said Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department.

Ms. Stauffer said the need for the tent city reflected serious problems in the immigration system.

“The number of families and unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger problem, namely a broken immigration system,” Ms Stauffer said. “Their ages and the hazardous journey they take make unaccompanied alien children vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. That is why H.H.S. joins the president in calling on Congress to reform this broken system.”

But the mass transfers are raising alarm among immigrant advocates, who were already concerned about the lengthy periods of time migrant children are spending in federal custody.

The roughly 100 shelters that have, until now, been the main location for housing detained migrant children are licensed and monitored by state child welfare authorities, who impose requirements on safety and education as well as staff hiring and training.

The tent city in Tornillo, on the other hand, is unregulated, except for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, schooling is not required there, as it is in regular migrant children shelters.

Mark Greenberg, who oversaw the care of migrant children under President Barack Obama, helped to craft the emergency shelter guidelines. He said the agency tried “to the greatest extent possible” to ensure that conditions in facilities like the one at Tornillo would mirror those in regular shelters, “but there are some ways in which that’s difficult or impossible to do.”

Several shelter workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, described what they said has become standard practice for moving the children: In order to avoid escape attempts, the moves are carried out late at night because children will be less likely to try to run away. For the same reason, children are generally given little advance warning that they will be moved.

At one shelter in the Midwest whose occupants were among those recently transferred to Tornillo, about two dozen children were given just a few hours’ notice last week before they were loaded onto buses — any longer than that, according to one of the shelter workers, and the children may have panicked or tried to flee.

The children wore belts etched in pen with phone numbers for their emergency contacts. One young boy asked the shelter worker if he would be taken care of in Texas. The shelter worked replied that he would, and told him that by moving, he was making space for other children like him who were stuck at the border and needed a place to live.

Some staff members cried when they learned of the move, the shelter worker said, fearing what was in store for the children who had been in their care. Others tried to protest. But managers explained that tough choices had to be made to deal with the overflowing population.

The system for sheltering migrant children came under strain this summer, when the already large numbers were boosted by more than 2,500 young border crossers who were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. But those children were only a fraction of the total number who are currently detained.

Most of the detained children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Some crossed illegally; others are seeking asylum.

Children who are deemed “unaccompanied minors,” either because they were separated from their parents or crossed the border alone, are held in federal custody until they can be matched with sponsors, usually relatives or family friends, who agree to house them while their immigration cases play out in the courts. ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2018 at 7:08 am

What a Good Boy

leave a comment »

Rebecca Traister writes in The Cut:

Today’s hearing, with the even-voiced woman describing an assault in careful, precise terms, occasionally apologizing to her interrogators as they grilled her, and the soft-faced man, alternately weeping and yelling — is an American crucible. To watch the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Christine Blasey Ford was stomach-turning, then enraging, then sad. Because it put the stark inequities that permeate our politics and power structures on unapologetic display.

The stunning, disturbingly educational spectacle started in the days that preceded the actual hearing. On Wednesday, Utah senator Orrin Hatch said of the multiple allegations of assault being made against Brett Kavanaugh, “I don’t think it’s fair to Brett Kavanaugh, I don’t think it’s fair to our system, I don’t think it’s fair to the process” — concluding with this assessment: “I don’t think we should put up with it, to be honest with you.”

Hatch was being very honest with us, using language that was remarkably reminiscent of something he’d said as Kavanaugh’s first hearing commenced, in response to a female protester who had stood up to shout about the life-and-death consequences, should the Supreme Court one day repeal healthcare reform. Asking to have “this loudmouth” removed, Hatch added, “We shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

Hatch’s locutions, along with those of his Republican colleagues on the judiciary committee and in the White House, made explicitly clear the dynamic that we saw today: that the right wing in this country — the Republican party that has lined up behind Donald Trump and is now trying to push through his evidently unfit Supreme Court pick — does not believe that it should have to “put up” with the assertion of the full humanity of women.

To these Republicans, women don’t deserve to be treated as full civic participants, with rights and voices of their own. As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it, the goal for his party was to “plow through” the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh — and by extension, the women making them — and confirm the guy already.

Of course, the policies to which Trump’s party has clung — the restriction of abortion rights and attempts to limit access to birth control; the refusal to raise the minimum wage or support equal pay protections; the disinclination, even, to get behind the Violence Against Women Act, not to mention the fealty to a multiply accused and self-confessed sexual predator — have betrayed where Republicans stand on women’s full equality. But at least until recently, the party had engaged in wan, low-bar attempts to dress up their antipathy in a female-friendly package: Mama Grizzlies and Nikki Haley and pit bull hockey-moms.

That façade has been exploded, I hope forever, by the events of the past weeks and days. Hatch, Chuck Grassley, and Lindsey Graham couldn’t hide their annoyance and impatience at having to listen to all these “misses,” as Grassley apparently likes to call women, who’d come forward with stories of assault and trauma. At the same time, women have been used as props (the girls basketball team, for one, which Kavanaugh raised yet again today, bemoaning that he may “never be able to coach again”) to advertise the judicial nominee’s friendliness to women, no matter his determination to curtail their ability to determine whether and when to have children. And then there was the hiring of Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona sex crimes prosecutor, or, as McConnell referred to her, “a female assistant,” whose job was to “assist” the all-white, all male members of the Republican judiciary committee in hiding their disdain for women from a rapt nation watching on their TVs, their computers, their cell phones.

It’s a good thing they hired Mitchell — whom Grassley referred to simply as “Rachel” in a couple of instances — because Grassley, when left to his own devices, did an awful job of extending even common decency toward Ford. Grassley failed to introduce Ford in his opening remarks, after giving a long and admiring list of Kavanaugh’s credentials, then interrupted his fellow senator Dianne Feinstein when she called him on his omission. After Ford finished reading her deeply moving opening statement, Grassley didn’t even take a beat before starting to talk. He didn’t thank her for her story or her willingness to share it. When she said she wanted caffeine, he suggested maybe a Coke. For God’s sake, get that woman a hot cup of coffee!

Worse, Grassley kicked off the hearing by comparing Ford’s suffering to that of Brett Kavanaugh — a classic maneuver in the defense of white patriarchy. You know the one. It’s the canard that to be called a racist is worse than being the subject of racist discrimination or violence; the same goes for being called a sexist and being the subject of sexual discrimination or violence. In other words, for Grassley, to be accused of violent sexual assault is as bad as experiencing it.

Grassley also failed to acknowledge that part of the ill-treatment directed at Ford was his and his colleagues’ doing, in their dismissal, disbelief, and howlingly angry derision of her. Republicans have suggested that she is lying, part of a “con job,” a “smear campaign.” The president of the United States has said in a press conference that he assumes that Kavanaugh’s accusers were paid off in exchange for stories. Hatch, who shows a near Olympian level of athleticism when it comes to the denigration of women — including Anita Hill, whom he was also around to degrade and disrespect — declared that he didn’t hold the women coming forward with stories in “high esteem.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 3:47 pm

How operation ceasefire transformed urban policing

leave a comment »

John Seabrook writes in the New Yorker:

Operation Ceasefire, an audacious approach to reducing gang-related violence that was developed by David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was still largely unproven in 2008 and 2009, when I spent time with Kennedy in Cincinnati, watching as the city’s police department implemented his ideas. Kennedy had had some success in Boston while he was developing the program, at the Harvard School of Government, but Ceasefire sprang from a very different philosophical approach to gun violence from the one behind zero-tolerance policing, in which police target high-crime areas and make arrests for infractions like jaywalking and loitering, and which was enshrined in many big-city police departments at the time.

Kennedy, who looks more like a dude you’d see astride a Harley in full leathers with “Hogtown” stenciled on the back than like a policy wonk, was making the argument that the vast majority of the homicides in cities were gang-related, driven by beefs and score-settling, and that the perpetrators were not sociopaths but rational actors who were looking for a way out of the cycle of violence and revenge they found themselves trapped in. It sounded like pointy-headed liberal academic claptrap. I admit I was a little skeptical myself.

What I saw in Cincinnati not only changed my mind but rocked my world. Ceasefire called for police to gather together the people responsible for gang-related shootings and do something simple—meet with them, along with clergy, victims, and other community members, and tell them to stop. The staged meeting at which the victims and perpetrators confronted one another in the presence of Cincinnati police officers was one of the most extraordinary events I have ever reported on.

The success Kennedy and his colleagues had in Cincinnati has been repeated multiple times. Cities all over the country are using the program now, including the N.Y.P.D. in Kennedy’s (and my) home base, Brooklyn. As a result,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 2:48 pm

“Rarely Do We Have a Judge Spell Out Their Bias Before a Televised Audience”

leave a comment »

Pema Levy writes in Mother Jones:

Fiercely defending himself against allegations of sexual misconduct Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh went so far as to claim he was the victim of a left-wing revenge plot. His remarks under oath could cause problems for him if he’s confirmed: Their partisan tone will raise questions about whether he should recuse himself from the myriad cases involving Democrats or progressive groups that will inevitably come before him. But there’s no mechanism for forcing a Supreme Court judge to recuse himself, so although it’s likely some cases will be perceived as tainted, there will be no obvious remedy.

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,” Kavanaugh said Thursday. “Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. And millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

If he’s confirmed, Kavanaugh’s outburst against Democrats will likely embolden some people before the court—as well as third parties who offer friend-of-the-court briefs—to demand his recusal. “I think the bias he exhibited was so overt,” says Melanie Sloan, a senior adviser to the watchdog group American Oversight and a former Democratic staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There are a lot of times people think there is a bias in a judge, but rarely do we have a judge spell out their bias before a televised audience in the millions so there’s a transcript of it.” Sloan points out, for example, Kavanaugh will be in a position to rule on challenges to Trump administration regulations from environmental organizations that came out against his nomination, which he presumably lists among the “left-wing opposition groups” he railed against.

But because Kavanaugh is unlikely to recuse himself, any party that asks him to do so risks angering him and hurting its chances before the court. It’s a “tails you win, heads I lose” situation, Sloan says.

But should Kavanaugh fail to be confirmed and remain in his current job as a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the situation changes slightly. On the circuit court, Kavanaugh would be bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to recuse himself if a reasonable person would doubt his ability to be impartial on a certain case, according to Matthew Menendez, an expert on judicial impartiality and independence at the Brennan Center for Justice. Unlike at the Supreme Court level, if a judge opts not to recuse himself, the parties can appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. Still, the Supreme Court justices, who are often friends with other judges, may be reluctant to force one of their fellow judges off a case.

Whichever court Kavanaugh is on, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 2:45 pm

There’s a Better Way to Interview Sexual Assault Survivors. We Didn’t See It Thursday.

leave a comment »

Madison Pauly writes in Mother Jones:

Three hours into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s grueling testimony Thursday, Republicans’ hired questioner, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, acknowledged the uselessness of pretending a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing could determine the truth of Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.

“I’ve been really impressed today, because you’ve talked about norepinephrine and cortisol and what we call in the profession, basically, the neurobiological effects of trauma,” Mitchell told Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University and research psychologist at Stanford Medical School. “Have you also educated yourself on the best way to get to memory and truth in terms of interviewing victims of trauma?”

“No,” Ford responded.

“Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no study that says that this setting…is the best way to do that?”

The knowing question elicited a rare moment of laughter in the emotionally charged hearing room, where Mitchell had attempted to interview Ford in five-minute increments while continually ceding the floor to Democratic senators for questioning. “We could stipulate that,” Debra Katz, one of Ford’s lawyers, replied.

There is a better way to question survivors of trauma about their experiences—one that Mitchell knows very well, according to Tasha Menaker, chief strategy officer for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Law enforcement officials—including prosecutors—have a well-earned reputation for treating victims of sexual assault not as victims, but suspects who may be interrogated and sometimes even charged (one of the many reasons most victims never report their experiences to police). Yet they’ve long had access to more effective tools for eliciting stories from survivors. Menaker, who has worked with Mitchell over the past three years to develop Maricopa County’s sexual assault protocol, says that as head of the sex crimes division of the county attorney’s office, Mitchell has received training on strategies to interview victims of trauma, and her office has helped coordinate trainings on the topic for local law enforcement.

Those trainings aren’t uncommon for special victims investigators, prosecutors, and social workers, who routinely employ forensic interviewing strategies to get information from trauma victims without re-trauamatizing them or causing them to stop cooperating. Those strategies, known as “trauma-informed” interviews, have been developed and refined over the last three decades, stemming in part from the child sex abuse panic of the 1980s, when kids suspected of being victims were subjected to repeated interrogations that often involved leading questions. Around the same time it became clear those interviews had produced false testimony and, in some cases, wrongful convictions, psychologists and law enforcement officers were working to develop new interviewing strategies for both children and adults, informed by an evolving scientific understanding of how traumatic events affect the brain and the way memories are encoded.

In general, trauma-informed interviews are designed to . . .

Continue reading

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 2:27 pm

Developing story: More Brett Kavanaugh Classmates Are Saying He Lied to Congress

leave a comment »

I ‘m beginning to smell toast. Tim Murphy reports in Mother Jones:

At Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh told a story—under oath—about himself. Facing a credible allegation of sexual assault from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who preceded him testifying before the committee, Kavanaugh sought to construct a sort of reputational buffer. He drank, but never to the point where it affected his memory. He had inside jokes with his male friends, but not in a way that was demeaning to women. He enjoyed a lively social calendar, but church always came first. He could not, in other words, have drunkenly assaulted Ford at a casual get-together in the summer of 1982.

Kavanaugh’s story places a big premium on those things being true, which means it’s really important if they’re not. As we pointed out at the time, some of what Kavanaugh said appeared to be flatly contradicted by what other acquaintances have said on the record, and in one case, by what his own lawyer had said. (His insistence that teenage drinking was legal in Maryland at the time he was in high school, is in his case simply false.) On Friday night the New York Times offered fresh evidence that Kavanaugh “crafted responses that were misleading, disputed or off point”—particularly when it came to his time at in high school at Georgetown Prep and college years at Yale University.

Several classmates at Yale had already told the paper about Kavanaugh’s drinking, including his freshman year roommate and a friend, Elizabeth Swisher. Kavanaugh disputed their accounts during his testimony, but the Times found yet another classmate who corroborated what they said:

“I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them,” said Daniel Lavan, who lived in Mr. Kavanaugh’s dorm freshman year. “His depiction of himself is inaccurate.”

The Times also spoke with high school classmates who disputed Kavanaugh’s characterization of an entry in his yearbook that described him as a “Renate Alumnus“—a reference to a woman at a nearby high school. When the woman, Renate Schroeder Dolphin, discovered the reference recently—in more than a dozen of Kavanaugh’s classmates’ yearbook entries—she was horrified, because the implication seemed pretty clear: a crude boast of sexual conquests. Kavanaugh’s lawyer initially told the Times that his entry referred to simply having taken Renate to an event and shared a kiss. (Something Dolphin denies ever happened.)

At the hearing, Kavanaugh said the yearbook entries were their way of showing affection for their good friend, and that there was nothing sexual in nature. But the Times spoke to four classmates who disputed that narrative, and alleged “that Judge Kavanaugh and his friends often made disrespectful sexual comments about Ms. Dolphin, and that the understanding at the time was that the many yearbook references to her were boasts about sexual conquests.”

There’s more to the piece, which . . .

Continue reading.

This is becoming a schematic diagram of white male wealthy privilege: what he thinks he can do, how he is unprepared for the victim’s coming forward, how that reveals the pattern of his youth—entitlement, hard-drinking, misogynistic (“No means yes, yes means anal!” chant), and cavalier in their treatment of women. And they expect no real pushback. They’re insulated against that by their whole culture (parental norms, family norms, etc.), which protects them in a cultural bubble. But now the bubble has burst, and Brett Kavanaugh is showing copious signs of flop sweat.

The problem for old Brett is that he was in fact that person doing those things at that time, and people remember. That was always supposed to be ignored, just “sowing wild oats,” and “boys will be boys,” and so on—all the dismissive, minimizing phrases that were used to label sexual assault and rape. “Hasty courtship,” another one. All to normalize the kind of attack for which the male equivalent is a beating—a serious beating. As phrased in a pulp detective novel I once read, the kind of beating that changes a man’s life, and he’s not the same after that. Interestingly, that sort of beating is not normalized and is clearly portrayed as something baddies do. It’s not accepted, in other words. A knockdown is enough, generally speaking. A knockout, perhaps. But then it stops. That’s not a beating. In a beating, that’s where it starts.

Men don’t like that idea. But for women? “Boys will be boys.”

I guess the cat’s out of the bag now, though, at least for Brett.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 2:24 pm

The straight-razor kit to level up your morning shave

leave a comment »

I don’t use a straight razor myself, though I admire them. My grandfather always used a straight razor, and the strop as an instrument of discipline for the boys (my uncles). And there’s a family story about the rage that consumed my grandfather when he discovered that his brand-new—brand-new—straight razor had been used by one of his boys to sharpen a pencil!! Whenever he told the story he would become enraged anew and look to punish again my uncle Earl. Tough times. (Uncle Earl knew to get out of sight when he heard the beginning of the story.)

Okay, to the point: I got an email from these people the other day, and after taking a look, it does look pretty inviting if you want to try. I have a familial tremor that makes them for me purely an aesthetic pleasure: no shaving.

The Straight Razor Kit to Level Up Your Morning Shave

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Shaving

Mantic59: What Is The Best Shaving Soap? – A Criteria Reset

with one comment

Mantic59 has a very interesting shaving soap round-up in Sharpologist that men who shave using true lather should definitely read (although it has already caused a hit to my pocketbook). I expect Van Yulay soaps are not included because they are carried at few outlets—Van Yulay itself and Maggard Razors. I was surprised to see that Meißner Tremonia did not get a mention.

I was pleased to see some recommendations worth trying—Barrister & Mann in particular. I never quite understood the enoromous enthusiasm for their shaving soaps, and I assumed that the praise was really for the fragrance. I’ve ordered a soap of the Reserve line to see the difference.

And I really like donkey’s milk (aka asses’ milk) shaving soap. (Unfortunately many readers seem to be in the 8th grade, and “asses’ milk” gives them uncontrollable giggles. Some people grow up faster than others.) I ordered a tub of Wholly Kaw’s soap.

And so on.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Shaving

‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team

leave a comment »

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and other nonfiction, has an edited extract from his new book The Fifth Risk (to be published on 2 Oct) in the Guardian:

Chris Christie noticed a piece in the New York Times – that’s how it all started. The New Jersey governor had dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016 and thrown what support he had behind Donald Trump. In late April, he saw the article. It described meetings between representatives of the remaining candidates still in the race – Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – and the Obama White House. Anyone who still had any kind of shot at becoming president of the United States apparently needed to start preparing to run the federal government. The guy Trump sent to the meeting was, in Christie’s estimation, comically underqualified. Christie called up Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to ask why this critical job had not been handed to someone who actually knew something about government. “We don’t have anyone,” said Lewandowski.

Christie volunteered himself for the job: head of the Donald Trump presidential transition team. “It’s the next best thing to being president,” he told friends. “You get to plan the presidency.” He went to see Trump about it. Trump said he didn’t want a presidential transition team. Why did anyone need to plan anything before he actually became president? It’s legally required, said Christie. Trump asked where the money was going to come from to pay for the transition team. Christie explained that Trump could either pay for it himself or take it out of campaign funds. Trump didn’t want to pay for it himself. He didn’t want to take it out of campaign funds, either, but he agreed, grudgingly, that Christie should go ahead and raise a separate fund to pay for his transition team. “But not too much!” he said.

And so Christie set out to prepare for the unlikely event that Donald Trump would one day be elected president of the United States. Not everyone in Trump’s campaign was happy to see him on the job. In June, Christie received a call from Trump adviser Paul Manafort. “The kid is paranoid about you,” Manafort said. The kid was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Back in 2005, when he was US attorney for New Jersey, Christie had prosecuted and jailed Kushner’s father, Charles, for tax fraud. Christie’s investigation revealed, in the bargain, that Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, whom he suspected of cooperating with Christie, videotaped the sexual encounter and sent the tape to his sister. The Kushners apparently took their grudges seriously, and Christie sensed that Jared still harboured one against him. On the other hand, Trump, whom Christie considered almost a friend, could not have cared less.

Christie viewed Kushner as one of those people who thinks that, because he is rich, he must also be smart. Still, he had a certain cunning about him. And Christie soon found himself reporting everything he did to prepare for a Trump administration to an “executive committee”. The committee consisted of Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions. “I’m kind of like the church elder who double-counts the collection plate every Sunday for the pastor,” said Sessions, who appeared uncomfortable with the entire situation. The elder’s job became more complicated in July 2016, when Trump was formally named the Republican nominee. The transition team now moved into an office in downtown Washington DC, and went looking for people to occupy the top 500 jobs in the federal government. They needed to fill all the cabinet positions, of course, but also a whole bunch of others that no one in the Trump campaign even knew existed. It is not obvious how you find the next secretary of state, much less the next secretary of transportation – never mind who should sit on the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

By August, 130 people were showing up every day, and hundreds more working part-time, at Trump transition headquarters, on the corner of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The transition team made lists of likely candidates for all 500 jobs, plus other lists of informed people to roll into the various federal agencies the day after the election, to be briefed on whatever the federal agencies were doing. They gathered the names for these lists by travelling the country and talking to people: Republicans who had served in government, Trump’s closest advisers, recent occupants of the jobs that needed filling. Then they set about investigating any candidates for glaring flaws and embarrassing secrets and conflicts of interest. At the end of each week, Christie handed over binders, with lists of names of people who might do the jobs well, to Kushner, Donald Jr and the others. “They probed everything,” says a senior Trump transition official. “‘Who is this person?’ ‘Where did this person come from?’ They only ever rejected one person: Manafort’s secretary.”

The first time Trump paid attention to any of this was when he read about it in the newspaper. The story revealed that Trump’s very own transition team had raised several million dollars to pay the staff. The moment he saw it, Trump called Steve Bannon, the chief executive of his campaign, from his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, and told him to come immediately to his residence, many floors above. Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?

Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. Months before the election, the law said, the nominees of the two major parties were expected to prepare to take control of the government. The government supplied them with office space in downtown DC, along with computers and rubbish bins and so on, but the campaigns paid their people. To which Trump replied: Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition.

Shut it down, said Trump. Shut down the transition.

Here Christie and Bannon parted ways. Neither thought it was a good idea to shut down the transition, but each had his own misgivings. Christie thought that Trump had little chance of running the government without a formal transition. Bannon wasn’t so sure if Trump would ever get his mind around running the federal government; he just thought it would look bad if Trump didn’t at least seem to prepare. Seeing that Trump wasn’t listening to Christie, he said: “What do you think Morning Joe will say if you shut down your transition?” What Morning Joe would say – or at least what Bannon thought it would say – was that Trump was closing his presidential transition office because he didn’t think he had any chance of being president.

Trump stopped hollering. For the first time he seemed to have listened.

“That makes sense,” he said.

With that, Christie went back to preparing for a Trump administration. He tried to stay out of the news, but that proved difficult. From time to time, Trump would see something in the paper about Christie’s fundraising and become upset all over again. The money that people donated to his campaign Trump considered, effectively, his own. He thought the planning and forethought pointless. At one point he turned to Christie and said: “Chris, you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.”

At that moment in American history, if you could somehow organise the entire population into a single line, all 350 million people, ordered not by height or weight or age but by each citizen’s interest in the federal government, and Donald Trump loitered somewhere near one end of it, Max Stier would occupy the other.

By the autumn of 2016, Stier might have been the American with the greatest understanding of how the US government worked. Oddly, for an American of his age and status, he had romanticised public service since he was a child. He had gone through Yale in the mid-80s and Stanford law school in the early 90s without ever being tempted by money or anything else. He thought the US government was the single most important and interesting institution in the history of the planet and could not imagine doing anything but working to improve it. A few years out of law school he had met a financier named Sam Heyman, who was as disturbed as Stier was by how uninterested talented young people were in government work. Stier persuaded Heyman to set aside $25m for him so that he might create an organisation to address the problem.

Stier soon realised that to attract talented young people to government service, he would need to turn the government into a place that talented young people wanted to work. He would need to fix the US government. Partnership for Public Service, as Stier called his organisation, was not nearly as dull as its name. It trained civil servants to be business managers; it brokered new relationships across the federal government; it surveyed the federal workforce to identify specific management failures and success; and it lobbied Congress to fix deep structural problems. It was Stier who had persuaded Congress to pass the laws that made it so annoyingly difficult for Trump to avoid preparing to be president.

Anyway, from the point of view of a smart, talented person trying to decide whether to work for the US government, the single most glaring defect was the absence of an upside. The jobs were not well-paid compared with their equivalents in the private sector. And the only time government employees were recognised was if they screwed up – in which case they often became the wrong kind of famous. In 2002, Stier created an annual black tie, Oscars-like awards ceremony to celebrate people who had done extraordinary things in government.

Every year the Sammies – as Stier called them, in honour of his original patron – attracted a few more celebrities and a bit more media attention. And every year, the list of achievements was mind-blowing. A guy in the energy department (Frazer Lockhart) organised the first successful cleanup of a nuclear weapons factory, in Rocky Flats, Colorado, and had brought it in 60 years early and $30bn under budget. A woman at the Federal Trade Commission (Eileen Harrington) had built the Do Not Call Registry, which spared the entire country from trillions of irritating sales pitches. A National Institutes of Health researcher (Steven Rosenberg) had pioneered immunotherapy, which had successfully treated previously incurable cancers. There were hundreds of fantastically important success stories in the US government. They just never got told.

Stier knew an astonishing number of them. He had detected a pattern: a surprising number of the people responsible for them were first-generation Americans who had come from places without well-functioning governments. People who had lived without government were more likely to find meaning in it. On the other hand, people who had never experienced a collapsed state were slow to appreciate a state that had not yet collapsed.

That was maybe Stier’s biggest challenge: explaining the value of this enterprise at the centre of a democratic society to people who either took it for granted or imagined it as a pernicious force in their lives over which they had no control. He would explain that the federal government provided services that the private sector could not or would not: medical care for veterans, air traffic control, national highways, food safety guidelines. He would explain that the federal government was an engine of opportunity: millions of American children, for instance, would have found it even harder than they did to make the most of their lives without the basic nutrition supplied by the federal government. When all else failed, he would explain the many places the US government stood between Americans and the things that might kill them. “The basic role of government is to keep us safe,” he would say.

The US government employed 2 million people, 70% of them one way or another in national security. It managed a portfolio of risks that no private person or corporation was able to manage. Some of the risks were easy to imagine: a financial crisis, a hurricane, a terrorist attack. Most were not: the risk, say, that some prescription drug proves to be both so addictive and so accessible that each year it kills more Americans than were killed in action by the peak of the Vietnam war. Many of the risks that fell into the government’s lap felt so remote as to be unreal: that a cyberattack left half the country without electricity, or that some airborne virus wiped out millions, or that economic inequality reached the point where it triggered a violent revolution. Maybe the least visible risks were of things not happening that, with better government, might have happened. A cure for cancer, for instance.

Enter the presidential transition. A bad transition took this entire portfolio of catastrophic risks – the biggest portfolio of such risks ever managed by a single institution in the history of the world – and made all the bad things more likely to happen and the good things less likely to happen. Even before . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 9:12 am

Five myths about capitalism

leave a comment »

Steve Pearlstein has an interesting column in the Washington Post:

Thirty years ago, in the face of a serious economic challenge from Japan and Europe, the United States embraced a form of free-market capitalism that was less regulated, less equal, more prone to booms and busts. Driving that shift was a set of useful myths about motivation, fairness and economic growth that helped restore American competitiveness. Over time, however, the most radical versions of these ideas have polarized our politics, threatened our prosperity and undermined the moral legitimacy of our system. (A recent survey found that only 42 percent of millennials supportcapitalism.) Here are five of the most persistent ones.

Greed, a natural human instinct, makes markets work.

Adam Smith, the father of economics, first pointed out in his most famous work, “The Wealth of Nations ,” that in vigorously pursuing our own selfish interests in a market system, we are led “as if by an invisible hand” to promote the prosperity of others. Years later, Smith’s theme that capitalism runs on selfishness would find its most famous articulation in a speech by a fictional corporate raider, Gordon Gekko, in the movie “Wall Street”: “Greed . . . is good, greed is right, greed works.” (Defenders of free markets have been desperate to disown the “greedy” label ever since.)

Smith, however, was never the prophet of greed that free-market cheerleaders have made him out to be. In other passages from “The Wealth of Nations,” and in his earlier work, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” Smith makes clear that for capitalism to succeed, selfishness must be tempered by an equally powerful inclination toward cooperation, empathy and trust — traits that are hard-wired into our nature and reinforced by our moral instincts. These insights have now been confirmed by brain researchers, behavioral economists, evolutionary biologists and social psychologists. An economy organized around the cynical presumption that everyone is greedy is likely to be no more successful than one organized around the utopian assumption that everyone will act out of altruism.

Corporations must be run to maximize value for shareholders.

This is an almost universal belief among corporate executives and directors — that it is their principal mission and legal obligation to deliver the highest possible return to their shareholders. The economist Milton Friedman first declared in the 1970s that the “one social responsibility of business [is] . . . to increase its profits,” but the corporate raiders of the 1980s were the ones who forced that view on executives and directors, threatening to take their companies or fire them if they didn’t go along. Since then, “maximizing shareholder value” has been routinely used to justify layoffs and plant closings, rationalize an orgy of stock buybacks, and defend elaborate corporate schemes to avoid paying taxes. It is now widely taught by business schools, ruthlessly demanded by Wall Street’s analysts and “activist” investors, and lavishly reinforced by executive pay packages tied to profits and share prices.

In fact, corporations are free to balance the interests of shareholders with those of customers, workers or the public, as they did routinely before the 1980s, when companies were loath to boost profits if it meant laying off workers or cutting their benefits. Legally, corporations can be formed for any purpose. Executives and directors owe their fiduciary duty to the corporation, which is not owned by shareholders, as widely believed, but owns itself (in the same way that nobody “owns” you or me). The only time a corporation is obligated to maximize its share price is when it puts itself up for sale.

Workers’ pay is an objective measure of economic contribution.

The theory of “marginal productivity” holds that a worker’s wage or salary reflects the “amount of output the worker can produce,” according to Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, author of a best-selling economics textbook. This idea is useful in constructing economic models, but Mankiw and others have also relied on it to justify widening income inequality and to oppose proposals to redistribute income based on subjective notions of what is “fair.” It is why we are supposed to accept that private-equity king Steve Schwartzman, at $800 million, should earn 20,000 times what the average American worker earns, as he did last year.

In reality, however, the pay set by markets is also subjective, reflecting the laws and social norms under which markets operate. The incomes earned by workers who planted tobacco — and those who owned tobacco plantations — changed considerably after slavery was abolished, and again after laws protecting sharecroppers were enacted, and again when minimum-wage laws were passed, and again when farmworkers won the right to unionize. Changes to trade law, patent law and antitrust law also alter the distribution of income. While it is probably better to rely on markets rather than government to set pay levels, that doesn’t mean that the way the markets set pay is a purely objective assessment of economic contribution or that redistribution is theft.

Equality of opportunity is all people need to climb the economic ladder.

No moral intuition is more hard-wired into Americans’ concept of economic justice than equality of opportunity. The reason Americans tolerate higher levels of income inequality is because of our faith that we all have a fair chance at achieving the American Dream or becoming the next Bill Gates. “In America we stand for equality,” writes Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, a leading defender of the morality of capitalism. “But for the large majority of us, this means equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.” In a 2015 New York Times poll on income inequality, 35 percent of Americans said they believed everyone has “a fair chance to get ahead.”

But while the United States has made great strides in removing legal barriers to equal opportunity, at least half the difference in income between any two people is determined by their parents, either through inherited traits like intelligence, good looks, ambition and reliability (nature), or through the quality and circumstances of their upbringing and education (nurture). As our society has become more meritocratic, we’ve simply replaced an aristocracy based on title, class, race and gender with a new and equally persistent aristocracy based on genes, education and parenting. Unless we are prepared to engage in extensive genetic reengineering, or require that all children be brought up in state-run boarding schools, we must acknowledge that we can never achieve full equality of opportunity.

Making the economy fairer will make it smaller and less prosperous.

Economists have long believed that there is an unavoidable trade-offbetween equality and growth — having more of one means having less of the other. Arthur Okun’s book about it, “Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff,” remains a classic. The implosion of communism and the decisionsof socialist countries like Sweden to reduce taxes and welfare are widely seen as acknowledgments of the failure of overly egalitarian systems to produce adequate economic growth.

But evidence suggests that there is also a point at which high levels of inequality begin to deliver less economic growth, not more — and that the United States has passed that point, according to research by the International Monetary Fund. That’s partly because more-unequal economies tend to have oversize and overcompensated financial sectors that are more prone to booms and busts. Other researchers have found that worker productivity suffers when economic gains are not widely shared.

A further reason may be that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 9:04 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Fine’s Marvel

with 2 comments

I ordered Fine’s Marvel 3-piece razor when it became available, and today was the first shave. I wanted a good (enjoyable) prep, so I went with Phoenix Artisan’s Green Ray brush and their Solstice shaving soap, which has a fine lather and a remarkably good fragrance (at least to my nose).

With beard fully prepped, I loaded the Marvel with a Gillette SharpEdge. The razor is chrome-plated zinc alloy with a solid handle, so it has good heft. The grip is not quite so secure as on the similarly designed handle of the (aluminum) Fine slant—this handle, perhaps because of its heft, makes the rounded ridges feel not quite so secure.

The head, however, is perfectly fine: very comfortable, no nicks, and very efficient. I quite easily achieved a BBS result in three passes. And, of course, you can use the head on another handle if you want, though I expect I’ll continue with the stock handle.

I’ll have this razor added to my list of recommendations for very comfortable and very efficient razors. The $40 price is quite reasonable.

A splash of Solstice aftershave, and the weekend is launched on a very positive note.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2018 at 8:50 am

Posted in Shaving

Serena Williams and Brett Kavanaugh

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 6:27 pm

The coolest plane—I want one

leave a comment »

Tim Moynihan writes in Wired:

ABOUT 20 MINUTES into my test flight aboard the Icon A5, the cockpit alarm started blaring. The angle-of-attack (AoA) display in front of me, an ingeniously designed gauge that seemed so delightful moments ago, was signaling doom. We were in the red. We had no lift. We were about to stall, the point at which an airplane ceases to be an airplane and simply becomes a massive chunk of dead weight ready to drop out of the sky.

We were at full throttle, and pilot Craig “Bowser” Bowers, Icon’s VP of sales and a former Marine F/A-18 Hornet pilot, had the stick held at its full aft position. If I could have seen anything below me at that point, I would have admired our view about 1,000 feet above the Hudson River. I would have taken a look at Fort Tryon to my right and the Ross Dock picnic area to my left, one last look for all of eternity. I’d likely see those things soon enough, spiraling around me as we hurtled toward the water.

But right now, I could not see the ground, even though my window was wide open. All I could see was the sky, and all I can remember is the high-pitched whine of that alarm.

And then the strangest thing happened: nothing. We didn’t go into a spin. Instead, the plane just kind of floated, nose up, in midair. An airborne Wile E. Coyote, refusing to look down, just hovering. It only lasted a few seconds, even if it felt like forever. But there was no spinning, no free-fall toward the ground. In fact, Bowers even turned the plane left and right, and we actually gained a bit of altitude during the stall—the opposite of what happens to every other airplane on the planet.

“The purpose of the demo is not to encourage this kind of flying, but to demonstrate that the A5 has a remarkable safety feature that helps keep the aircraft flying and controllable even when the pilot has made the mistake of inadvertently stalling the aircraft,” says Icon Aircraft CEO and Founder Kirk Hawkins. “Most aircraft when held in a stall, even at full power, will enter into a rapid descent which can degrade into a loss of control or a spin under certain conditions.”

According to Icon, that floating-in-midair trick could have continued indefinitely—just as long as the plane’s engine didn’t overheat. Rotax, which manufactures the A5’s 100-horsepower engine—which drives the plane’s three-blade pusher propeller at a top speed of about 120mph—advises against using full power for extended periods.

The Icon A5 may react very differently to a stall, but recovering from one is standard operating procedure. Bowers eased up on the stick, causing the nose of the plane to dip, the aircraft to pick up airspeed, and we were back on our way up the Hudson instead of shit creek.

What makes the A5’s carbon-fiber frame spin-resistant isn’t any one thing, but a combination of design elements that have been in development for the better part of a decade. According to Icon, the A5 required an FAA weight exemption for the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) class to nail the spin-resistant design.

They needed bigger wings with several unique elements—stall-resistant wing cuffs, a bit of a twist in the contour of the wing, and differently designed airfoils on different parts of the wing—and that required a larger tail. That, in turn, required a stronger tail boom. All that added up to a larger and heavier airframe, one that clocks in with a maximum gross weight (that is, fully loaded with passengers and equipment) of 1,510 pounds rather than the 1,430-pound maximum gross weight of other amphibious LSAs.

“I wish I could give you one magic bullet or a simple, easy to understand list of elements,” Hawkins says. “It’s a very complex and highly integrated problem requiring the entire aircraft to be designed with this goal in mind. There is no band aid or simple add-on to make an airplane spin resistant. It’s far more of a careful recipe, unique to each airplane, that uses many common tools… airfoil design, wing shape, wing devices, tail shape, fuselage factors, control surfaces.”

There are a lot of exceptional things about the Icon A5 beyond the light sport aircraft’s spin-resistant frame. The other wonderful things have been said so much that they are now cliches. In terms of size and operation, the small plane is as close as we’ve come to an honest-to-goodness, on-the-market flying car. The propellor is behind you, which means you have a beautiful, unobstructed, wide-angle view in front of you. Think about all the money you’ll save on baggage fees. You can even open the side windows. That means you can do that thing where you stick your hand out the window and feel the lift on it like an airplane wing—this time in a real airplane.

But the A5 is also like a flying speedboat; the amphibious craft doesn’t just take off and land on water, but it also handles like a jetski in the drink. On the water, you can carve corners with ease. . .

Continue reading.

And there’s a video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 5:31 pm

Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

leave a comment »

Alvin Chang has a fascinating article at Vox. It begins:

There were several noticeable differences between the Senate testimony of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford.

The most obvious was the tone each took. Ford was polite and quiet in recounting her accusation against Kavanaugh; he was angry and loud in his denials of the allegations against him.

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

We went through the transcript of the hearing and noted every single time a question was asked of Ford and Kavanaugh. (We didn’t include the times a questioner didn’t ask an explicit question.) Then we noted every instance in which answered the question or said they didn’t know the answer — and we also noted every time they either refused to answer or gave an answer that didn’t address the question. Here are the results:  . . .

Continue reading.

The chart is quite striking.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 4:53 pm

A well-stated tweet that explains why Kavanaugh disqualified himself

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 4:49 pm

Jonathan Chait: “Why Brett Kavanaugh’s Hearings Convinced Me That He’s Guilty”

leave a comment »

Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

I think Brett Kavanaugh is probably lying about having sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, and many other things, and has decided from the beginning to say what he has to in order to fulfill his career ambition. There is, however, at least some, small chance that he is telling the truth when he professes his innocence. And that small chance gives me some sympathetic human reaction to his emotional testimonial. If he is somehow innocent, as he claims, he has been subject to a horrifying and humiliating ordeal.

That, however, does not justify confirming Kavanaugh to a lifelong position on the Supreme Court. He has, for one thing, all but abandoned the posture of impartiality demanded of a judge. A ranting Kavanaugh launched angry, evidence-free charges against Senate Democrats. “The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. But at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking,” he said, using a partisan term invented by Republicans to complain about ideological scrutiny of an extreme judicial nominee. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled by pent-up anger over President Trump in the 2016 election.”

Why they took this revenge against Kavanaugh, rather than the first justice who was appointed after the 2016 elections, when Democrats’ anger over both the election and the treatment of Merrick Garland ran hotter, he did not say. Kavanaugh does not seem able to imagine even the possibility that Democrats actually believe the women accusing him of sexual assault. He is consumed with paranoid, partisan rage.

The method Republicans have used to defend Kavanaugh has consisted of suppressing most of the evidence that could be brought to bear in the hearing, and then complaining about the lack of evidence. “Unless something new comes forward, you have just an emotional accusation and an emotional denial without corroboration,” said Senator Lindsey Graham. Conservative columnist Kimberly Strassel argued, “The standard here isn’t where you ‘look’ or ‘sound’ ‘credible.’ It is whether you provide evidence.”

The FBI could investigate the charges – which might not settle the question, but would at least advance the inquiry, and use the threat of perjury to force any witnesses to give straight answers. The Senate could subpoena Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, an eyewitness to the alleged attack on Ford, and compel him to testify. They have refused repeated pleas to do either.

Kavanaugh himself has dodged and weaved on this. In a Fox News interview, he changed the subject when asked about an FBI investigation. He tried to deflect when asked by Senate Democrats, saying he would do whatever the committee wants (knowing full well they do not want the FBI to investigate.) When asked what he wants, Kavanaugh responded with several seconds of damning silence.

Kavanaugh deserves due process. So does Christine Blasey Ford. Only one of those people is standing in the way of it.

Why do I believe Kavanaugh is lying? The charges are credible, and his accusers are willing to put themselves at risk, with no apparent gain to bring them to the public. Kavanaugh has said too many things that strain credulity for all them to be plausibly true. He almost certainly lied about having had access to files stolen by Senate Republicans back when he was handling judicial nominations in the Bush administration. His explanation that the “Renate Alumni” was not a sexual reference is difficult to square with a fellow Renate Alumnus’s poem ( “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate”) portraying her as a cheap date. His insistence “boof” and “devil’s triangle” from his yearbook were references to flatulence and a drinking game drew incredulous responses from people his age who have heard these terms. His claim that the “Beach Week Ralph Club” was a reference to a weak stomach seems highly unlikely.

The accretion of curious details ultimately overwhelms the small possibility that he is a man wronged. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 2:44 pm

A soothing Friday shave and a late start

leave a comment »

I slept late and then I got involved in a revision to my outline/guide I wrote to accompany Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and then going through the blog to update all the outline links I could find to point to the revised (current) version.

But the shave was excellent. I used the Sabini brush, and you’ll notice that the ebony handle looks much more spiffy. I used a tiny bit of John Boos Butcher Block Board Cream and the handle, and it really brought it back to life.

The renewed brush made a very nice lather from Creed’s Green Irish Tweed shaving and my Edwin Jagger performed flawlessly. A splash of Irisch Moos finished the shave. Extremely nice.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2018 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: