Later On

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

Archive for March 19th, 2019

How the Patriarchy Got into Our Heads

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Maya Salam writes in the NY Times:

The hardest times for me were not when people challenged what I said, but when I felt my voice was not heard.

— Carol Gilligan, co-author of a new book, “Why Does Patriarchy Persist?”

Remember in “Terminator 2” how the bad terminator kept getting smashed and shattered and ripped apart, but it didn’t matter? He just kept re-emerging, rising from the ashes, as an unstoppable force. Now imagine that terminator is a vessel to keep power, wealth and status in the hands of men — that’s the patriarchy. It can feel indestructible, coming back ever stronger despite seemingly endless efforts to smash it.

But why and how, after decades of activism, does the patriarchy persist? That’s what Carol Gilligan, the psychologist and ethicist, and Naomi Snider, a former student of Dr. Gilligan’s, were determined to unpack in their new book, “Why Does Patriarchy Persist?”

The answer may seem obvious: It persists because it maintains a system in which men hold power — political, economic, institutional — and what man would want to give that up?

But Snider and Gilligan contend that this is more a symptom of patriarchy and less cause.

Women and men, they say, internalize patriarchy without realizing it, pushing aside their best judgment and sacrificing their needs in order to fall in line with how they think they’re supposed to behave. By not falling in line, they risk sticking out for all the wrong reasons, potentially driving away friends, partners or professional opportunities, ultimately resulting in isolation.

That fear is instilled in us early, they say: With boys being taught that crying is synonymous with weakness, for example, while girls learn that assertiveness equals aggressiveness.As adults, it manifests in other ways. In how women shoulder their family’s emotional labor, meaning the invisible mental work of holding a household and relationship together. If a woman registers that this is unfair and complains, she’s often told that she’s “selfish, a drama queen, hysterical,” Snider said. Eventually, “she believes it.” That’s patriarchy.

Snider also cited the cliché of a woman who doesn’t tell a man she is dating that she wants a committed relationship for fear of scaring him off and being rejected. That too is patriarchy, Snider said.

In essence, Gillian and Snider write, patriarchy harms both men and women by forcing men to act like they don’t need relationships and women to act like they don’t need a sense of self. The crux, though, is that we are “not supposed to see or to say this,” they write.

At the end of “Terminator 2,”  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

This is the problem with tax cuts leading to reduced government resources: Lax oversight

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“A software system on the Boeing jets that crashed is now under scrutiny. But in the F.A.A.’s initial review process, it went largely unnoticed.” That’s the email headline for this report by David Gelles and Thomas Kaplan:

As regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration reviewed designs for Boeing’s newest passenger jet, they paid extra attention to several features, including the lithium ion batteries, the pressure fueling system and the inflatable safety slides.

One feature that did not receive exceptional scrutiny: a new software system intended to prevent stalls.

That same software is suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving the same jet, the Boeing 737 Max. Authorities around the world are now taking a closer look at the jet’s approval by the F.A.A., a process that relies heavily on Boeing employees to certify the safety of the plane.

The 737 Max was one of the first commercial jets approved under new rules, which delegated more authority to Boeing than had been the case when most previous planes were certified. And the software system did not raise warnings during the approval process. Top F.A.A. officials, who are briefed on significant safety issues, were not aware of the software system, according to two people with knowledge of the process.

The United States transportation secretary, Elaine L. Chao, on Tuesday called for her agency’s internal watchdog to open an inquiry into the process, saying that “safety is the top priority of the department.” Lawmakers in the United States are similarly pushing for a review, while Canada is looking into its approval of the plane’s American certification.

The scrutiny adds to the pressure at Boeing, an aerospace giant with a strong safety record. The 737 Max, its best-selling jet, has more than 4,600 pending orders, which are expected to bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming years.

The plane is now grounded as the company races to come up with a fix to the software. It is unclear when the jet will start flying again.

A spokesman for Boeing said the manufacturer would cooperate with the audit by the Department of Transportation. It has defended the certification process for the jet, saying that “the 737 Max was certified in accordance with the identical F.A.A. requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives.”

The F.A.A.’s response to the crisis has also come under scrutiny. As authorities in other countries moved quickly to ban the plane following the crash in Ethiopia this month, the American regulator held off.

The F.A.A. has been run by an acting administrator, Daniel K. Elwell, since January 2018. President Trump on Tuesday picked a former Delta Air Lines executive, Stephen Dickson, to become the permanent head of the agency.

Before a new plane can fly, the F.A.A., in partnership with manufacturers, assesses the technology, design and components that make up the jet. They look for potential safety issues that could affect the airworthiness of the plane.

The investigations into the crashes are ongoing, but the similarities between the two doomed flights suggest potential problems with the new software system, known as MCAS. In the case of the Lion Air crash in October, the automated system may have engaged based on erroneous data, creating a struggle for the pilots who were trying to maintain control.

But the software — powerful as it was — did not emerge as a major focus for the F.A.A. regulators who certified the Max as safe to fly in 2017, according to the people involved in the effort who were not authorized to speak publicly about the process.

The software did not set off what is known as a special condition, usually applied to a novel feature that requires additional regulations before it can be certified as safe. The plane’s non-rechargeable lithium batteries, for example, fell into that category.

To Boeing and regulators, the MCAS software was not a technological breakthrough. Rather, it was viewed as part of the existing flight control software, according to the one of the people.

The system was intended as a safety feature to make the 737 Max,which boasted other significant design features, fly like earlier models.

The new, more efficient engines on the 737 Max were larger and placed in a different location than previous generations. To compensate for the new aerodynamics, Boeing installed the software, which would force the nose of the plane down in certain circumstances. The goal was to help avoid a stall.

The F.A.A., in its approval of the plane, did not require training on the software, a sign that regulators did not see the system as critical for pilots to understand. Nor did the F.A.A. require pilots who could fly the predecessor 737 to train on a simulator in order to fly the Max. Most pilots did not know about MCAS until after the Lion Air crash.

The regulators also approved the software to be triggered after receiving data from only one so-called angle-of-attack sensor. The decision allowed for the system to have a single point of failure, a rarity in aviation safety.

Most important safety systems include redundancy. The coming software fix by Boeing will require data from both of the plane’s angle-of-attack sensors, among other changes, according to pilots and lawmakers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Business, Government

How PG&E Ignored California Fire Risks in Favor of Profits

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The opening graphic of this report is stunning, and the report itself shows the Achilles’ heel of capitalism: that the structure of the capitalistic endeavor works to focus a company’s attention and efforts totally on increasing profits, and any measures that take away from profits must be curtailed—including, for example, spending any money at all to make the workplace safer (cf. coal mines). That’s why the government and its agencies must closely monitor and regulate private corporations—for example, by having Congress pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and then by having the Executive branch see that companies act in accordance with the Act. And that effort must be stead and vigorous because companies are driven to increase profits and are willing to do anything to achieve that goal, including (as we have repeatedly see, in example after example) things that are immoral, unethical, and illegal. It helps that such crimes rarely lead to any company personnel being imprisoned. The typical punishment is a fine, and surprisingly often the fine is small compared to the profits realized. And the pressure to increase profits is always there. Naturally, then, companies start to view fines as a cost of doing business, and if the net effect is that profits increased, so what?

The tragedy of the wildfires caused by PG&E’s deliberate decisions not to do maintenance is a good example. Maintenance is expensive, and if the company discontinues it, profits will increase.

Ivan Penn, Peter Eavis, and James Glanz report for the NY Times:

Tower 27/222 looms almost 100 feet tall in the Sierra Nevada foothills, a hunk of steel that has endured through 18 United States presidents. The transmission lines that it supports keep electricity flowing to much of California.

On the morning of Nov. 8, a live wire broke free of its grip. A power failure occurred on the line, affecting a single customer. But 15 minutes later, a fire was observed nearby. Within hours, flames engulfed the region, ultimately killing 85 and destroying the town of Paradise.

The equipment belonged to the state’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric. To the company’s critics, the tower and its vulnerability reflect a broken safety culture.

Five of the 10 most destructive fires in California since 2015 have been linked to PG&E’s electrical network. Regulators have found that in many fires, PG&E violated state law or could have done more to make its equipment safer.

Long before the failure suspected in the Paradise fire, a company email had noted that some of PG&E’s structures in the area, known for fierce winds, were at risk of collapse. It reported corrosion of one tower so severe that it endangered crews trying to repair the tower. The company’s own guidelines put Tower 27/222 a quarter-century beyond its useful life — but the tower remained.

In January, the company sought bankruptcy protection, saying it might face more than $30 billion in wildfire liabilities. Its financial straits could hamper its preparations for the next wildfire season, and those beyond, even as weather patterns increase the fire risk.

“There is a climate change component to this,” said Michael W. Wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at Stanford University and a member of a state commission examining the cost of wildfires. “But there’s also a failure of management and a failure of vision.”

Another major utility in the state, San Diego Gas & Electric, has added hundreds of weather stations, cameras and satellite technology in recent years to reduce fire risk. PG&E is now trying to catch up.

Beyond wildfires, PG&E has a broader history of safety problems. A 2010 explosion of a PG&E gas pipeline killed eight people and destroyed a suburban neighborhood, prompting state and federal officials to investigate PG&E’s safety practices. Regulators ultimately fined the utility $1.6 billion, and a federal jury convicted it of violating a pipeline safety law and obstructing an investigation. The company is still under court-supervised probation.

PG&E executives acknowledge that the company has made mistakes. “We have heard the calls for change and are committed to taking action by focusing our resources on reducing risk and improving safety throughout our system,” John Simon, PG&E’s interim chief executive, said in a recent statement.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom said the company’s record made it hard to take its promises seriously.

“They have simply been caught red-handed over and over again, lying, manipulating or misleading the public,” Mr. Newsom said in an interview. “They cannot be trusted.” . . .

Continue reading. There is much more.

Speaking of companies that absolutely cannot be trusted, I offer Facebook as a prime example. How many times more will Mark Zuckerberg apologize and promise to do better? Answer: As many times as needed. He’s not going to change, and Facebook is not going to change. Government intervention is required.

I do understand that government can also go bad, with regulatory agencies in effect taken over by the industries that they are supposed to regulate—just look at the Trump administration, or how the Obama administration refused to take any serious action to regulate Wall Street. (The Obama administration did create the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau—actually, Elizabeth Warren created it—but now that agency is defunct: Trump allowed the payroll lending industry to destroy it.)

Obviously, the government itself must be watched carefully, and that is the job of the free press and investigative journalism—like this report.

Later in the article:

. . . “Some people believe that you run equipment to failure,” Catherine Sandoval, a former California regulator who has been pushing for improved maintenance of electrical poles and towers. “They believe ‘run to failure’ to save money. This is the danger of run to failure.”

In December 2012, five other aging towers on the same stretch, the Caribou-Palermo line, collapsed in a storm. In July 2013, Brian Cherry, PG&E’s vice president for regulatory affairs at the time, notified state regulators that the company would replace the five fallen towers and one more, but not 27/222.

A 2014 company email that has come to light in the bankruptcy proceedings said that “the likelihood of failed structures happening is high.” But PG&E determined that if the structures failed, the cause would probably be heavy rain, precluding a wildfire risk. PG&E said this week that the structures in question were temporary wooden poles that had since been replaced.

In April 2016, PG&E made another request to regulators: to install fresh wires on the Caribou-Palermo line. But the company said it would not replace any of the line’s remaining nearly century-old towers.

That October, during painting work on a lattice tower on the line, a piece of hardware called a J hook broke when a contract worker grabbed it while repositioning himself. A PG&E report said workers had determined that corrosion — the reason for the painting — was enough of a problem that “crews working on these towers need to use caution.”

The company said that tower had a different design from Tower 27/222’s. But it would not comment on why it didn’t replace 27/222 given its age. It said it considered many factors when making decisions on maintenance and repairs. . .

It makes my blood boil. The executives who made these cost-cutting decisions should face very long prison terms. Here’s why:

. . . The deadly 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, a San Francisco suburb, was PG&E’s second in a two-year period. The ensuing investigations and litigation produced an alarming picture of the company’s practices and priorities.

In court depositions, employees said supervisors routinely ignored their concerns about the company’s use of faulty analysis and outdated equipment. The state’s Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E, concluded that the company was more concerned with profit than with safety.

The commission’s safety and enforcement division found in 2012 that PG&E’s gas and transmission revenues exceeded what it was authorized to collect by $224 million in the decade leading up to the explosion. But capital spending fell $93 million short of its authorized budget between 1997 and 2000. PG&E also spent millions less on operations and maintenance than it was supposed to.

“There was very much a focus on the bottom line over everything: ‘What are the earnings we can report this quarter?’” said Mike Florio, a utilities commissioner from 2011 through 2016. “And things really got squeezed on the maintenance side.”

Five years after the explosion, a PG&E line started the Butte Fire, which scorched more than 70,000 acres, killing two people and destroying nearly a thousand homes and other buildings.

State investigators said workers should have known that when they had cleared a stand of trees for PG&E, they had exposed a gray pine weak enough to be blown into a power line. On Sept. 9, 2015, strong winds knocked that tree into the line, igniting the fire.

State officials also blamed PG&E equipment for starting 17 of 21 major fires in 2017 that ripped through Northern California, including wine-growing Napa and Sonoma Counties.

2017 report commissioned by state regulators determined that PG&E often made improvements only after a disaster. The report, which was produced by NorthStar Consulting, also found that the transmission and distribution side of the company had less robust safety policies than its gas and power generation divisions. . .

As soon as safety reduces profit, safety is sacrificed. Companies can do good—from later in the article:

. . . State officials say there is a good template elsewhere in California for what PG&E should be aiming for: the practices of San Diego Gas & Electric.

The San Diego utility keeps data on every utility pole and transmission tower in its service territory, which is smaller than PG&E’s but has a higher proportion of overhead lines in areas at high fire risk. It uses nearly 177 stations to monitor temperature, humidity and wind speeds in an area roughly the size of Connecticut and records video from 100 high-definition cameras. It uses satellites to track how green or dry the grass is and employs the state’s largest water-dropping helicopter to douse fires quickly. When data indicates a high wildfire threat, the utility cuts off power to some areas.

San Diego Gas & Electric upgraded its fire-prevention efforts after residents sued it for causing a devastating wildfire in 2007. In recent years, it has been responsible for far fewer fires than PG&E. “We want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to mitigate ignition,” said Scott Drury, the utility’s president. . .

They can, but the systemic pressures to increase profit means that more often they will do anything to grow profit.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 3:59 pm

Wow: Elizabeth Warren explains what drives her

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Click the link in this tweet and watch that video.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 3:36 pm

Good walk and yogurt marinade

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Better cadence today—106.5 steps/minute—over the same route. I have to say that I’m noticing the effort and was somewhat stiff and sore this morning. The weather, though, is magnificent: 62ºF and sunny, with all the cherry trees in bloom. And the Nordic walking sticks encourage a brisk pace.

I have a couple of chicken-breast halves that I’ve cut into small pieces and immersed in Costco (Kirkland) Greek Yogurt into which I mixed a good pinch of salt, some ground cumin, and some dried dillweed. (I was thinking of mint, but have none.)

The yogurt marinade idea came from an article by Priya Krishna in Taste. My plan tonight is to heat my Field No. 12 skillet in the oven, then use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to sauté two spring onions and two yellow summer squash until they are cooked pretty well, then add one bunch of red chard, chopped, with the stems chopped small. Once that is cooked, I will cook the chicken in the same skillet. I’m undecided whether first to remove the vegetables or not. I think I will see how it looks.

I’m trying to have some sort of cooked greens in every meal.

One good thing about the Field skillets: clean-up is a snap.

Update: I decided to add the yogurt and chicken to the veggies after the veggies were cooked. It worke fairly well, but the yogurt threw off a lot of liquid, which I had to reduce. That took a while.

The chicken was tender and juicy, though. I think I might try the yogurt as a coating for roasted chicken, as in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 1:33 pm

Three Paths Citizens United Created for Foreign Money to Pour Into U.S. Elections

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This report is one of a 4-part series in the Intercept, and this part is by Jon Schwarz and Lee Fang:

BEFORE THE 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, all money spent in federal elections urging the election or defeat of a candidate had to originate from identifiable human beings.

There were also strict limits on the amount any one human being could contribute to any particular campaign. And there were public disclosure requirements for donations over $200.

Corporations and unions were forbidden from involvement beyond organizing individuals’ contributions, via regular (i.e., non-Super) political action committees.

For example, Microsoft long ago established a PAC. But it could only solicit donations from individuals connected with Microsoft — e.g., executives and stockholders — and these individuals could only contribute to the PAC in amounts limited by law. The PAC doled out the money it collected from these individuals, but it couldn’t use any of the tens of billions of dollars in cash in Microsoft’s corporate treasury to make political contributions or expenditures.

Then Citizens United struck down the prohibition on corporations spending their own money on “independent expenditures.” Corporations had free-speech rights, the court decided, and money was tantamount to speech, so corporations had the right to spend unlimited money espousing their political views. Several months later, a lower court decision clarified that a new kind of political action committee — one that only made “independent expenditures” — could collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to that end.

This was the birth of Super PACs.

The sole, weak legal restrictions that remain revolve around the definition of “independent expenditures.” Technically, they are not to be used for spending that is coordinated directly with campaigns — although that restriction, in 2016, has been blatantly violated.

Karl Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner, explained the situation this way several years ago: “Prior to Citizens United, all federal election money could be traced back to an individual who expended it or contributed to a political committee. Once you enable artificial entities to contribute, money is no longer traceable back to identifiable individuals.”

One foreseeable effect of this was that the question of whether a campaign contributor was foreign or not went from a yes-or-no question to something altogether hazier, where even experts in campaign finance law can’t say for certain whether the government has grounds to sanction the donor.

This would matter less if the Federal Election Commission, the body charged with overseeing campaign finance law, were a well-resourced, ferocious watchdog, developing rules for such things and enforcing them. But it’s exactly the opposite, with inaction built into its structure by Congress: There are six commissioners, but no more than three can be members of the same party. These days, with the Republican commissioners adamantly opposed to enforcing even existing laws, crucial votes often tie 3-3. The commission has a difficult time just deciding to open inquiries into potential violations; it conducted 36 investigations in 2005, but only four in 2013.

One recent Republican commissioner — Don McGahn, now the chief lawyer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — even proposed that the FEC’s investigative staff should be forbidden from using Google without approval from a majority of commissioners. FEC employees have some of the lowest morale in comparable government agencies.

All in all, Citizens United opened three major potential paths for foreign money to flow into the U.S. political process:

THE INTERCEPT HAS discovered that American Pacific International Capital, a company incorporated in California but owned and controlled by Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, a married couple who are Chinese nationals, made donations totaling $1.3 million to the Jeb Bush Super PAC Right to Rise USA.

APIC is actually an example of a corporation whose ownership was comparatively easy to uncover. It is a real company that does actual business in the U.S., and Tang and Chen also control a publicly traded Singapore corporation whose filings disclose that APIC belongs to them.

By contrast, the 2016 election has seen a surge of contributions to Super PACs by so-called ghost corporations, which appear to exist solely to make those donations and whose ownership is unknown. Whether any of these corporations are ultimately owned by foreign nationals is likewise unknown.

Don’t expect the FEC to find out where the money came from: It recently deadlocked on a vote simply to open an investigation into several million-dollar donations by corporate entities four years ago to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. (The treasurer of Restore Our Future was Charlie Spies, a prominent D.C. lawyer who went on to become treasurer of Right to Rise USA — and who, in 2015, authored a memo creating a legal roadmap for foreign nationals wishing to take advantage of Citizens United to invest in U.S. politicians.)

ALMOST ALL LARGE publicly traded U.S. companies have some degree of foreign ownership. The most recent Treasury Department survey estimated that about $6 trillion in U.S. stock, or around one-quarter of the total market value of public U.S. corporations, is ultimately owned by foreign nationals.

The money in these corporations’ treasuries therefore belongs in part to foreign nationals. And because their money can’t plausibly be sequestered from U.S. money, any donations by such corporations are technically partially of foreign origin and should theoretically be illegal. To pick one example of many, the publicly traded Florida electricity company NextEra Energy gave $1 million to Right to Rise USA in 2015. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more. The Roberts Supreme Court is a disaster.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 11:34 am

Why miscreant officials hate transparency: An off-duty officer fled DUI crash, then let his mom try to take the blame, records show

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“Miscreant officials” refers both to police who have been guilty of misconduct and to the supervising officers who attempt to conceal the misconduct. Ben Poston and Maya Lau report in the LA Times:

South Pasadena Police Cpl. Ryan Bernal realized he was in trouble.

Dazed from a night of drinking, he was jolted awake when his pickup truck smashed into a pole that fell on the patio roof of an occupied house in Duarte, internal police records show.

So the off-duty officer drove his truck around the block, walked to a nearby Walmart and slipped away in a ride-hailing service vehicle. The next morning, he showed up at a Los Angeles County sheriff’s station with his mother, who falsely claimed she had been behind the wheel, investigators said.

Bernal resigned in July 2017 after police moved to fire him for making false statements, committing a hit-and-run and attempting to obstruct an internal affairs inquiry. Prosecutors declined to charge him with a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge. A sheriff’s investigator who handled the case said two of Bernal’s department colleagues who had crucial evidence declined to cooperate with the criminal investigation.

The South Pasadena incident is one of hundreds of cases being examined by the newly created California Reporting Project, a collaboration of 33 news organizations including The Times that is analyzing internal police records released under the new law.

The collaborative has filed requests with more than 600 law enforcement agencies and so far received records from 617 incidents in which officers used significant or deadly force, 115 cases in which officers were found to have been dishonest and 34 in which they committed sexual assault or other sexual misconduct.

The documents provide a glimpse into how California police agencies evaluate misconduct, force and shootings by their officers — issues that have dominated a national debate over policing and fueled criticism that law enforcement agencies aren’t transparent enough with the communities they serve.

Those concerns helped drive efforts to pass the new law, Senate Bill 1421, at a time when tensions were high over police use of deadly force and departments were grappling with how to handle officers who have histories of dishonesty or other misconduct that could undermine their credibility as witnesses in criminal proceedings.

READ MORE: 4 questions we can’t answer yet about California police »

Details of Bernal’s misconduct recently became public under the landmark transparency law, which requires the release of internal police records of shootings, use of force and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying on duty.

“The public finally gets to see inside one of the key institutions of our community, the police force,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School. “For too long it was very difficult to try to pierce through the departments to see who these officers were and what they were doing.”

So far, The Times has obtained dozens of files on misconduct and use of force. The records provide details about:

  • A Cathedral City detective suspended for three days for falsifying his time sheet in 2017
  • An Inglewood Unified School District police officer fired for lying during an internal investigation after his service weapon was stolen from his car in 2015
  • And a Chula Vista police officer fired last year for having sex while on duty and in uniform in a public area

Still, a dozen police agencies have refused The Times’ requests to release records of incidents that happened before Jan. 1, when SB 1421 went into effect. Some agencies argue the law does not explicitly allow access to the older files and that releasing them would violate long-standing protections on officer personnel records while others have said they want to wait until the issue has been settled by the courts.

In Los Angeles, Orange, Contra Costa and other counties, judges have rejected requestsby police unions to block the release of older records. The state Supreme Court also declined to consider an appeal by one of the unions over the records.

Some officials have nevertheless sought to destroy records that would otherwise be public under the law.

In Downey, the police union has asked a court to order the city to destroy disciplinary records older than five years, as the city’s record retention guidelines allow. The Long Beach Police Department destroyed two decades’ worth of internal affairs files in December. A month later, Inglewood City Council voted to destroy records from more than 100 police shootings and other internal investigations records.

But at least 134 agencies have begun releasing records under the new law, revealing misconduct previously kept hidden from the public.

Continue reading. There’s more. Police departments seem to harbor many who have no respect for the law and some outright lawbreakers.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 9:55 am

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank

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David Enrich reports in the NY Times:

As President Trump delivered his inaugural address in 2017, a slight woman with feathered gray hair sat listening, bundled in a hooded white parka in a fenced-off V.I.P. section. Her name was Rosemary T. Vrablic. She was a managing director at Deutsche Bank and one of the reasons Mr. Trump had just taken the oath of office.

It was a moment of celebration — and a moment of worry for Ms. Vrablic’s employer.

Mr. Trump and Deutsche Bank were deeply entwined, their symbiotic bond born of necessity and ambition on both sides: a real estate mogul made toxic by polarizing rhetoric and a pattern of defaults, and a bank with intractable financial problems and a history of misconduct.

The relationship had paid off. Mr. Trump used loans from Deutsche Bank to finance skyscrapers and other high-end properties, and repeatedly cited his relationship with the bank to deflect political attacks on his business acumen. Deutsche Bank used Mr. Trump’s projects to build its investment-banking business, reaped fees from the assets he put in its custody and leveraged his celebrity to lure clients.

Then Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, and the German bank shifted into damage-control mode, bracing for an onslaught of public scrutiny, according to several people involved in the internal response.

In the weeks before Ms. Vrablic attended his swearing-in, the bank commissioned reports to figure out how it had gotten in so deep with Mr. Trump. It issued an unusual edict to its Wall Street employees: Do not publicly utter the word “Trump.”

More than two years later, Mr. Trump’s financial ties with Deutsche Bank are the subject of investigations by two congressional committees and the New York attorney general. Investigators hope to use Deutsche Bank as a window into Mr. Trump’s personal and business finances.

Deutsche Bank officials have quietly argued to regulators, lawmakers and journalists that Mr. Trump was not a priority for the bank or its senior leaders and that the lending was the work of a single, obscure division. But interviews with more than 20 current and former Deutsche Bank executives and board members, most of them with direct knowledge of the Trump relationship, contradict the bank’s narrative.

Over nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank’s leaders repeatedly saw red flags surrounding Mr. Trump. There was a disastrous bond sale, a promised loan that relied on a banker’s forged signature, wild exaggerations of Mr. Trump’s wealth, even a claim of an act of God.

But Deutsche Bank had a ravenous appetite for risk and limited concern about its clients’ reputations. Time after time, with the support of two different chief executives, the bank handed money — a total of well over $2 billion — to a man whom nearly all other banks had deemed untouchable.

Kerrie McHugh, a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman, said: “We remain committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.”

The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization. A company spokeswoman, Amanda Miller, declined to comment.

In the late 1990s, Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany, was trying to make a name for itself on Wall Street. Its investment-banking division went on a hiring binge.

The bank recruited a handful of Goldman Sachs traders to lead a push into commercial real estate. One was Justin Kennedy, the son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Another was Mike Offit, whose father was the writer Sidney Offit.

At Deutsche Bank, Mr. Offit’s mandate was to lend money to big real estate developers, package the loans into securities and sell the resulting bonds to investors. He said in an interview that one way to stand out in a crowded market was to make loans that his rivals considered too risky.

In 1998, a broker contacted him to see if he would consider lending to a Wall Street pariah: Mr. Trump, who was then a casino magnate whose bankruptcies had cost banks hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr. Offit took the meeting.

A few days later, Mr. Offit’s secretary called him. “Donald Trump is in the conference room,” she whispered. Mr. Offit said he rushed in, expecting to find an entourage. Mr. Trump was alone.

He was looking for a $125 million loan to pay for gut renovations of 40 Wall Street, his Art Deco tower in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Offit was impressed by the pitch, and the loan sailed through Deutsche Bank’s approval process.

Mr. Trump seemed giddy with gratitude, Mr. Offit recalled. He took Mr. Offit golfing. He flew him by helicopter to Atlantic City for boxing matches. He wrote a grateful note to Sidney Offit for having “a great son!”

Mr. Offit commissioned a detailed model of 40 Wall Street. A golden plaque on its pedestal bore the names and logos of Deutsche Bank and the Trump Organization. Mr. Offit gave one to Mr. Trump and kept another in his office.

Mr. Trump soon came looking for $300 million for the construction of a skyscraper across from the United Nations headquarters. The loan was approved. He wanted hundreds of millions more for his Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City. Mr. Offit pledged to line up cash for that, too.

Not long after, Edson Mitchell, a top bank executive, discovered that the signature of the credit officer who had approved the Trump Marina deal had been forged, Mr. Offit said. (Mr. Offit was never accused of forgery; the loan never went through.)

Mr. Offit was fired months later. He said it was because Mr. Mitchell claimed that he was reckless, a charge Mr. Offit disputed.

It was the first hiccup in the Trump relationship. It would not be the last.

Over the next few years, the commercial real estate group, with Mr. Kennedy now in a senior role, kept lending to Mr. Trump, including to buy the General Motors building in Manhattan. Occasionally, Justice Kennedy stopped by Deutsche Bank’s offices to say hello to the team, executives recalled.

At an annual pro-am golf tournament the bank hosted outside Boston in the early 2000s, Mr. Trump sat down for a recorded interview with the bank’s public relations staff, who asked about his experience with Deutsche Bank.

“It’s great,” Mr. Trump exclaimed, according to a person who witnessed the interview. “They’re really fast!”

In 2003, a Deutsche Bank team led by Richard Byrne — a former casino-industry analyst who had known Mr. Trump since the 1980s — was hired to sell bonds on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Bank officials escorted Mr. Trump to meet institutional investors in New York and Boston, according to an executive who attended.

The so-called roadshow seemed to go well. At every stop, Mr. Trump was greeted by large audiences of fund managers, executives and lower-level employees eager to see the famous mogul. The problem, as a Deutsche Bank executive would explain to Mr. Trump, was that few of them were willing to entrust money to him.

Mr. Trump requested an audience with the bank’s bond salesmen.

According to a Deutsche Bank executive who heard the remarks, Mr. Trump gave a pep talk. “Fellas, I know this isn’t the easiest thing you’ve had to sell,” the executive recalled Mr. Trump saying. “But if you get this done, you’ll all be my guests at Mar-a-Lago,” his private club in Palm Beach, Fla.

The sales team managed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bonds. Mr. Trump was pleased with the results when a Deutsche Bank executive called, according to a person who heard the conversation.

“Don’t forget what you promised our guys,” the executive reminded him.

Mr. Trump said he did not remember and that he doubted the salesmen actually expected to be taken to Mar-a-Lago.

“That’s all they’ve talked about the past week,” the executive replied.

Mr. Trump ultimately flew about 15 salesmen to Florida on his Boeing 727. They spent a weekend golfing with Mr. Trump, two participants said.

A year later, in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts defaulted on the bonds. Deutsche Bank’s clients suffered steep losses. This arm of the investment-banking division stopped doing business with Mr. Trump.

Around that time, Mr. Trump returned to Deutsche Bank’s commercial real estate unit — which was housed in a separate part of the sprawling investment-banking division — for another loan. This one was to build a 92-story skyscraper in Chicago, the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

p class=”css-1ygdjhk evys1bk0″>Josef Ackermann, the bank’s chief executive, had publicly promised soaring profits, and with many of the company’s businesses sputtering, the investment-banking group was under intense pressure to grow.

As Deutsche Bank considered making the loan, Mr. Trump wooed bankers with flights on his private plane, according to a person familiar with the pitch. In a Trump Tower meeting, he told Mr. Kennedy that his daughter Ivanka would be in charge of the Chicago project, a sign of the family’s commitment to its success.

But there were warning signs.

Mr. Trump told Deutsche Bank his net worth was about $3 billion, but when bank employees reviewed his finances, they concluded he was worth about $788 million, according to documents produced during a lawsuit Mr. Trump brought against the former New York Times journalist Timothy O’Brien. And a senior investment-banking executive said in an interview that he and others cautioned that Mr. Trump should be avoided because he had worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.

Nonetheless, Deutsche Bank agreed in 2005 to lend Mr. Trump more than $500 million for the project. He personally guaranteed $40 million of it, meaning the bank could come after his personal assets if he defaulted.

By 2008, the riverside skyscraper, one of the tallest in America, was mostly built. But with the economy sagging, Mr. Trump struggled to sell hundreds of condominium units. The bulk of the loan was due that November.

Then the financial crisis hit, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers sensed an opportunity.

A provision in the loan let Mr. Trump partially off the hook in the event of a “force majeure,” essentially an act of God, like a natural disaster. The former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had called the financial crisis a tsunami. And what was a tsunami if not a natural disaster?

One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Steven Schlesinger, told him the provision could be used against Deutsche Bank.

“It’s brilliant!” Mr. Schlesinger recalled Mr. Trump responding.

Days before the loan was due, Mr. Trump sued Deutsche Bank, citing the force majeure language and seeking $3 billion in damages. Deutsche Bank countersued and demanded payment of the $40 million that Mr. Trump had personally guaranteed.

With the suits in court, senior investment-banking executives severed ties with Mr. Trump.

Not long after Mr. Trump got the Chicago loan — but before it went south — Deutsche Bank was expanding its private-banking division, which served the superrich. Executives said they set out to hire Ms. Vrablic, whom they viewed as the best private banker in New York. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, a lot of it sleazy.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 9:45 am

A secret government is a bad sign: State Department bars press corps from Pompeo briefing, won’t release list of attendees

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As the Federal government begins to operate more and more in secret, without transparency, we have more and more reason to be worried. There’s a reason the Trump administration does not want the American people to know what it’s up to, and the reason is the obvious one: they know the public does not approve—or, rather, would not approve if it knew.

Michelle Kosinski and Jennifer Hansler report for CNN:

The State Department on Monday said it would not be distributing a transcript or list of attendees from a briefing call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held that evening — a call from which the department’s press corps was excluded and only “faith-based media” allowed.

The afternoon phone briefing was to discuss international freedom with the secretary — who rarely participates in such calls — to discuss “international religious freedom” ahead of his trip to the Middle East. One member of the State Department press corps was invited, only to be un-invited after RSVPing. That reporter was told that the call was for “faith-based media only.”

CNN also RSVP’d to organizers, asking to be included, but received no reply.

Despite repeated inquires and complaints from members of the press corps who are based at the department, the State Department on Monday night said they would not be providing a transcript of the call, a list of faith-based media outlets who were allowed to participate or the criteria to be invited.

Officials would not answer questions about whether a range of faiths was included.

A reporter with EWTN Global Catholic Television told CNN they were not originally invited but had asked the State Department if they could take part and were allowed.

The State Department told the press traveling with Pompeo that the department does not release transcripts for print roundtables. However, they typically release transcripts for all of the secretary’s public press engagements.

Former State Department spokesperson John Kirby, who is a CNN Global Affairs analyst, said “it is typical practice that any on the record interview in which a Cabinet official participates is transcribed and published at the earliest appropriate opportunity.”

“These officials are public servants. What they say — in its entirety — is inherently of public interest. It’s inappropriate and irresponsible not to observe that obligation,” he told CNN.

Kirby said he has “certainly seen times when particular journalists or columnists have been targeted for inclusion on given topics.” However, “to exclude beat reporters from something as universally relevant as religious freedom in the Middle East strikes me as not only self-defeating but incredibly small-minded,” he said.

“It’s perfectly fine to ensure faith-based media have a seat at such a table. But it’s PR malpractice to cut off access to the broader press corps. I wish I could say I expected more from this crowd,” Kirby said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 7:55 am

A spice shave with the iKon X3

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I haven’t used this Catie’s Bubbles shaving soap for a while, and I had forgotten how much I like both fragrance and lather. My Maggard 24mm synthetic did a good job, and my iKon X3 (here on a UFO handle) is a favorite razor: extremely comfortable, extremely efficient: three passes, BBS, no damage. A splash of Old Spice after shave lotion from India (said to be the original Shulton formula, but I wouldn’t be on that) finished the shave.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2019 at 7:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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